Top Blokes Foundation
Improving the mental health and wellbeing of young men in Toowoomba
Year of grant:
With support from The John Villiers Trust, the Top Blokes Foundation has worked with the community to establish their programs in Toowoomba, and this week the first cohort of boys is graduating.
Following a call for support from schools and community leaders in the Toowoomba region, Top Blokes applied for a grant from JVT to establish their programs for young males in the region.
Top Blokes’ programs aim to develop resilience, empathy and respect for self and others, helping to ultimately reduce the rates of mental health issues, suicide, and anti-social and risk-taking behaviours. Read more here.
JVT’s grant of over $280,000 provides funding for Top Blokes to hire local youth workers, set up an advisory panel, introduce their programs to local schools, and establish local partnerships that will sustain their programs longer term.
Now, Top Blokes is celebrating the graduation of its first cohort of 66 boys and young men who have participated in their programs.
Top Blokes’ Queensland State Manager Rachel Hinds said the program was already seeing great results in the region with 66 young males already completing their program.
“The boys who graduated this week have completed our six-month program, which comprises weekly workshops covering a range of topics including anger management, fostering positive mental health, peer pressure, masculinity, risk-taking, consent, intimate relationships, racism, and power and privilege,” Rachel said.
“This is just the first cohort of many, as we aim to support over 550 young males in the Toowoomba region over the first three years of the program.
“Thanks to JVT’s funding, we have been able to work closely with the community to establish the programs that will benefit their boys now and into the future, and we’re looking forward to building local partnerships that will allow the programs to continue for many years to come.”
JVT CEO Lea-Anne Bradley said the work of organisations like Top Blokes demonstrated how philanthropy can result in long-term, sustainable change in country communities.
“When we work in partnership with local schools, businesses, leaders and support services like Top Blokes, we can make a real, long-lasting impact in the lives of individuals and ultimately their broader communities,” Lea-Anne said.
“It’s been fantastic to see Top Blokes already establishing deep relationships within the community, engaging so effectively with local schools, and sharing their lessons learned along the way.
“The 66 boys and young men who are graduating today can now benefit from the mentoring they’ve participated in, and continue to build on what they’ve learned to support their positive mental health and wellbeing now and into the future.
“Congratulations to the boys graduating today, and to Top Blokes on bringing their program to life in partnership with the community of Toowoomba and surrounding regions!”
Top Blokes is a grassroots, rapidly growing health education organisation that improves the mental health and community engagement of young males aged 10-24 who are at risk or facing disadvantage. Through their peer-led mentoring and community leadership programs, young men develop positive decision-making skills, decreasing their risk-taking and anti-social behaviours while developing personal qualities of integrity and self-respect. For more information visit https://www.topblokes.org.au/
Sixteen-year-old Chris is one of the first Top Blokes graduates in Toowoomba.
Before entering the Top Blokes program, Chris was struggling to succeed at school, had issues expressing emotion which led to angry outbursts and was stuck in a cycle he didn’t feel he could get himself out of.
Since being a part of the Top Blokes program, he has experienced real change across many areas of his life. His teacher reports that he is now much more confident in himself, has learned to control his anger, and is now engaged at school and getting much better grades in the majority of his subjects. Teachers have also noticed positive changes in Chris including more maturity, accountability and respect.
“I wasn’t going to class and was avoiding assignments,” Chris said. “I was scared I wasn’t doing well enough at school which made me not want to go. I was really struggling to get back into school as I was stuck in a bad cycle. Top Blokes really helped me to overcome this.”
Chris really struggled with his mental health, anger and self-regulation. In the anger management and mental health workshops, Chris was able to learn strategies to help him overcome these struggles. A huge part of this was being able to talk about his emotions.
“I learned to talk about my emotions instead of just bottling them up. When I was bottling them up I was getting angrier and more stressed. But now I have found that by talking about it I am a much calmer person. It was Top Blokes that taught me how to talk about my emotions more.”
Chris says that since participating in the Top Blokes program the biggest change is learning more about himself.
“It has taught me a lot about myself. I was hiding a lot but now I am more open about things, I have become much happier.“