Beau was bullied at school and facing problems at home, but found a safe space at Headspace. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORDBEAU* was, and still is, a teenager others turned to when they were down and out.
Students at his Ballarat school had his mobile number and often called him late at night and on weekends, distressed and in need of someone to listen.
But none of these students realised Beau was struggling too.
The pain he was experiencing was twofold, with bullies at school and hostility at home.
Having only just turned 17, this inspirational young man has had a rough trot.
At home, his parents fight. They struggle with money and they break up regularly. It’s a less than desirable environment for a young teenager.
His father is an alcoholic and Beau said he “tiptoes” around the old man when he’s drunk, fearful of what could happen next.
Beau’s also the oldest sibling and has the added pressure of being the strong older brother his younger siblings rely on.
“Life can be pretty tough,” he said on Tuesday when The Courier visited Headspace – a youth mental health centre doing amazing things to help young people in the region.
“But Headspace saved me. It has given me back that spark that everyone needs. I love this place,” he said.
Beau said while it had always been difficult at home, it was the bullies at school that made him turn to Headspace.
Jesse Park and Kate Dharumasena of Headspace. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD
“I was pretty desperate,” he said.
“I knew something needed to be done and my school counsellor suggested Headspace.”
Beau finds it hard to admit there were moments he tried to take his life. He says the hardest part of remembering those times is because he now has a zest for life. He wants to be alive.
At 14, Beau was taken from his private school and put into the public education system.
His family had always struggled for money and could no longer afford his tuition.
However, it wasn’t this move that saw his mood and passion for life disintegrate.
“I didn’t have any friends when I got there so I decided to try and become friends with a group … a bad group,” he said. “I eventually saw them for what they were, bullies.
“They would shove other kids up against lockers, abuse other kids and generally do anything they could to make a pain of themselves.”
So one day Beau decided to stand up for the students his “mates” were bullying.
“I basically approached the ringleader and told him why he was wrong in doing it,” he said.
“And he didn’t like it. So his group sort of turned on me and tried making my life hell, like they were doing to many others.”
Beau said the group took his move as “betrayal” and soon started assaulting him on a regular basis.
It was around this time, alongside things at home, Beau became anxious and some days feared leaving his bedroom.
And the bullying wasn’t only taking a mental toll, with the physical damage plain to see.
“I was concussed a few times from them. There’d normally be one or two holding you down while the others were just laying into you,” he said. “I was always covered in bruises and had little niggles all over my body. And I was on my own.”
Beau said if not for the team at Headspace he wouldn’t have made it through the tough times.
“After a few sessions, I was feeling worthy. The welcome party I get every time I walk in is absolutely amazing,” he said.
William*, 23, heard of Headspace from a Centrelink employee when he was in the depths of a work for the dole program, which drove him to despair.
Just like the others, he admits Headspace transformed his life.
“My problems started when I finished school and I just had no idea what to do. I was completely directionless,” William said.
He said the combination of a work for the dole program and regular trips to Centrelink left him stuck in bed without motive to get out.
“You just feel horrible,” he said. “But yeah, this woman at Centrelink told me to go to Headspace.”
William said simple advice from his case worker had put his life back on track.
“I told him I wanted to go to uni and study professional writing and editing and he said, ‘well, why don’t you?’,” William said.
“I had no answer. So, basically a week later I was officially enrolled and everything has been great since. No more work for the dole, no more Centrelink, no more feeling like crap basically.”
William has almost finished a certificate four in professional writing and editing and will this year begin his diploma.
Headspace, meanwhile, continues to save the lives of Ballarat’s youth on a daily basis while working to expand its services in general health.
Opened in July, 2013, Headspace welcomes anyone aged 12 to 25, with its services including general health, mental health, education and employment, drug and alcohol treatment and sexual health.
The Ballarat Headspace was a long-awaited project for the region and centre manager Ben Gillett said his team provided a crucial outlet for anyone who might be struggling through an array of issues.
He said the biggest problem among Ballarat’s youth, or Headspace’s clientele, was complex family issues and domestic violence, while alcohol and cannabis were still the main drug issues crippling the region.
“The best part of Headspace is that we are known as being such a welcoming place. You can literally walk straight through the doors and someone will be here to help you,” Mr Gillett said. “You don’t even need a referral. You just walk in.”
One woman who decided to walk in following a marriage breakdown early last year, was Kate*.
At 25, Kate is one of Headspace’s oldest clients and sought its help after noticing signs of depression following a break-up.
“We were together for seven years and I moved here (Ballarat) for him,” Kate said. “But, in the end, I just knew it wasn’t right.”
Kate said she believed her mental health was already suffering well before she and her partner spilt.
But the end saw it spiral out of control.
“I noticed that I just had all these doubts coming in and just all these bad thoughts,” she said. “Just like really negative thoughts started to just really sort of take grip in my brain and I just wasn’t able to shake them like I normally would be able to.”
“That’s when my depression got a really good grip.”
Like Beau, Kate said it was hard to imagine where she would be without the team at Headspace.
“Headspace is like a godsend. It sounds kind of cheesy, but I really feel like they saved my life last year,” she said. “Like, I don’t know what I would have done if they weren’t here.”
Headspace staff said it was stories like this which made the centre such a special place.
“At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about,” Mr Gillett said.
“We pride ourselves on being a really welcoming place that can help anyone in the age bracket. We make sure its simple for anyone to walk through that door. So if someone tells you about us, you can just walk in and get started.”
Headspace is located at 28 Camp Street, Ballarat, and is open from 9am to 5pm on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. It is open from 9am to 7pm on Wednesday and Thursday.
* Not their real names
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