A SURGE in male suicide rates has seen a group of young men across the Northern Rivers join forces.
The group are shining the light on mental health among their peers with the formation of the Healthy Minds Club.
Jackson Connellan, Jack Douglas-Brown, Harry Fettell and Lachlan Jones kickstarted the club a few months ago.
They were bound together by a string of male suicides across their friendship circles over the past few years.
The group has as a private page on Facebook where young men can share their struggles and talk about overcoming challenges from mental health.
New members have joined from Ballina, Byron Bay, Lennox Head and Lismore.
Many of the group knew each other from sporting clubs across the region including rugby league, rugby union and surfing.
It is an inclusive group that aims to give young males a voice on subject matters which are often overlooked.
They now have regular events and catch-ups where they raise money for various causes.
"We thought there was an opportunity to provide a strong support network among the people we know," Connellan said.
"It's a place to share experiences and promote healthy life through inclusion among the community.
"Whether its footy, fishing, surfing or just hanging out, it's all centred on trying to create a positive way of life.
"We're seeing positive results by offering people a platform to tell their stories; it can be quite mind-blowing."
Connellan and Jones were keen to start the group earlier this year and are now seeing it expand as restrictions ease from COVID-19.
Jones lost three friends to suicide over an eight-month period and has seen the Facebook group grow to over 400 members.
"It's outdone anything I ever thought we would do," Jones said.
"The amount of people jumping on to tell their story and helping out others has been really inspiring."
The Facebook page has remained private as a safety net for people to share their stories in confidence, while new members can request to be added by an admin.
The best way to get in contact with the group is on Instagram at thehealthymindsclub_
There is additional information and bank account details for donations at email@example.com
Eli Carr joins the cause
Leading from the front, Lennox Head teenager Eli Carr, decided to launch his own fundraiser in conjunction with the Healthy Minds Club.
His initial goal was to run 150km during October and donate $1 for every kilometre he ran to the club.
Carr, 19, started alone and ended up with a GoFundMe page which raised $8000.
The money from that will be used for young men locally to book appointments with psychologists.
"Men's mental health is a big issue in our age group and I've had some close mates open up about their issues," Carr said.
"I've even had a mate take his own life, so it's all really important to me.
"I was determined to do something to raise awareness and make a change."
It all culminated with over 100 people joining Carr for his final run around Lennox Head.
"It wasn't just my mates, I met new people and had people running with me that I had never had anything to do with," Carr said.
"I love what The Healthy Minds Club are doing and all the donations have gone to them.
"Exercise and sport is a big factor, it opens up the mind and means people don't have to suffer in silence.
"The community support was amazing and I have the best mates ever for motivating me to keep going."
Trent Chapman- living with mental illness and providing training
Drawing from his own experiences with bi-polar and other mental health issues has seen Trent Chapman become a mentor to men suffering from mental illness across the the Northern Rivers.
Chapman has spent the past few years running Mental Health First Aid courses and is currently running a free training program with Steve Carrig for members of the Healthy Minds Club.
The pair have delivered courses to Lifeline, Mission Australia, Byron Bay Council, Lismore Council, Barefruit Marketing and many more across the region.
Chapman,35, managed his own mental illness growing up and is well equipped to promote positive messages through his work as a personal trainer.
He is the founder of Movement Functional Fitness an exercise culture supporting both physical and mental health.
Chapman also delivers his program 'Movement Meerkids' into schools on the Northern Rivers where he uses technique to break down bullying and isolation creating a resilient future leaders.
He has spent time with Conellan and assisted in the Healthy Minds Club taking its next step in the battle with mental illness.
"Jackson and I have developed a friendship over the past 18 months," Chapman said.
"I've looked at what they've done and it's great that they're getting that awareness out there.
"Now they're at the stage where they need to put that into action and that is where I'm trying to help.
"I've definitely noticed attitudes around town changing and people are starting to realise how real mental illness is.
"There wasn't much support around when I was growing up and I had some tough challenges.
"I took it upon myself about seven years ago to educate myself.
"I've tried to be a better man, live with the illness and be there to support others.
"I had the footprint as a personal trainer living a healthy lifestyle to take that next step and facilitate these courses.
Chapman will run his next round of courses starting December 1.
He said participants gain the necessary training to help themselves and others living in crisis.
"I'm a big believer that anyone can make a positive impact in someone's life when they have the correct training."