OFFER OF SUPPORT: Matthew and Ashleigh Vels with children Alvie and Edison. Matthew wants to create an event to reach out to South Burnett young people. (Photo: Contributed)
OFFER OF SUPPORT: Matthew and Ashleigh Vels with children Alvie and Edison. Matthew wants to create an event to reach out to South Burnett young people. (Photo: Contributed)

Festival to let young people know they’re supported

A RECENT spate of four or five suicides of teenagers and young adults in the South Burnett region has compelled Kingaroy resident Matthew Vels to initiate an event to raise awareness of the issue.

Eight years ago the youth services worker was involved in setting up LAN Entertainment to organise the Warwick Winter Fest in collaboration with Headspace and Southern Downs Regional Council.

The event attracted 300 to 400 teenagers and was aimed at raising awareness of teenage bullying and depression.

"I was 18 or 19 at the time," he said.

"I was in a band on the Sunshine Coast, we were sick of playing at pubs."

Mr Vels grew up in Kingaroy, but went to high school in Warwick.

"I was used to regional areas and knew what the kids were like," he said.

"We had friends going through mental health issues - bullying and depression, so we got bands from the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast together to perform.

"They really enjoyed it. We got a couple of speakers and people handing out pamphlets telling where you can go to get help."

Mr Vels said figures show about a third of deaths by suicide affect people under 35 years and the current forced isolation was leading to increased numbers of suicides and suicidal thoughts among young people.

Believing the community needs to come together to help young people, Mr Vels hopes to bring together a committee of interested people to discuss plans for an event to be held once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

He hopes the organisation of the event would include input from young people, that youth professionals would be involved to raise awareness of youth suicide and sponsors would come on board to provide financial assistance.

Warwick Winter Fest held in 2012 as an outreach to young people to let them know of the support available to them. Mr Vels has proposed something similar for the South Burnett. (Photo: Contributed)
Warwick Winter Fest held in 2012 as an outreach to young people to let them know of the support available to them. Mr Vels has proposed something similar for the South Burnett. (Photo: Contributed)

Mr Vels posted his intentions on Facebook and is already gaining support from interested groups, as well as bands involved in the Warwick Winter Fest.

South Burnett Councillor and South Burnett Suicide Prevention working group member Danita Potter confirmed there had been quite a few suicides recently in South Burnett and Cherbourg.

She said Mr Vels' proposal didn't sound like a bad idea, but she wasn't sure it suited the area which was composed of various groups.

Ms Potter said it would need to be supported by all groups in the region or would risk causing further isolation to those not involved.

Ms Potter said the South Burnett Suicide Prevention working group had been very active on Facebook to engage with people and provide support and assistance.

To contact Mr Vels email matthewjvels@gmail.com

If you are in need of support phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Articles contributed by Margaret Maccoll are supported by the Judith Neilson Institute of Journalism and Ideas.