STOPPING SUICIDE: Jacob West, creator of Soilders United, will be selling the shirts with a small amount going to mental health charities.
STOPPING SUICIDE: Jacob West, creator of Soilders United, will be selling the shirts with a small amount going to mental health charities. Contributed

Rocky boy using own experiences to help youth mental illness

FROM 2014 until now Jacob West has lost six mates to suicide.

Six mates and he is only 24 years of age.

It's been a roller-coaster for the Rockhampton boy who has also spent time fighting his own battles.

From dealing with his parents separating, to losing his younger brother in a road accident to being laid off just after finishing his apprenticeship and not knowing if he was going to loose his sister on life support, Jacob says he has been broken and questioned the meaning of life.

He was diagnosed with severe post traumatic depression himself which crippled him to the point where even he contemplated giving up and he was "thrown some tablets by a doctor and given some appointments to a psychologist".

As a young man, in the prime of his life, Jacob knew the medication wasn't helping him all that much, he knew there had to be another way, but what?

What he did know, first hand, was young people suffering from mental illness did not normally reach out.

They looked for a quick alternative for a temporary high, like drinking or recreation drugs. They didn't think of the consequences, only the feel good that came with them.

Jacob said reducing suicide rates came down to more than just one factor.

But believes a step in the right direction was approaching people with mental illness struggles instead of waiting for them to come to you.

"I found that after the deaths of my close friends a lot of people went to social media and posted about their door always being open but I chose to look at it in a different way," Jacob said.

"As someone that had been there the last thing you want to do is talk or go out of your way to do so.

"So I posted that instead of saying your door is always open that maybe if you feel as though your friends or family are suffering we need to go and knock on their door."

Jacob said he believed the problem of mental illness ran deeper than whether you lived in a regional or urban area and that the government programs are doing all they could.

But he suggested the government look at tackling mental illness in a different way.

"We really need to put more time and effort into things that young people can relate to," he said.

But where should the time and effort be channelled?

Founding a mental health awareness clothing brand, Soldiers United, Jacob said he found young people were more willing to talk about their problems when they felt a part of a supportive community.



"I want to create awareness but also show others that we can all be in this as one and face the battle together. I have received hundreds of messages from sufferers who have said they felt comfortable talking to me because I was there for them and that I was doing something amazing to shed a light on a dark subject.

"Soldiers United is not just a clothing label we are a movement equipped with tools to help others that are suffering, have suffered, know someone suffering or just want to help out.

"When they put their shirt on I want them to feel unstoppable like nothing can bring them down because there are thousands of others out there wearing the same shirt battling the same battle and the more soldiers the more chance of winning the war on mental illness."

If you need help, phone Kids Helpline on 1800551800 or visit, or phone Lifeline on 131114.