Youth Live4Life is bringing together rural and regional communities to improve youth mental health

Four young people smiling while holding up circular 'Live4Life' signs

Nicola Dowse

Posted May 05, 2023

Youth mental health is a major issue in rural and regional communities, but new funding is helping Live4Life bring its tailored mental health support model to more towns across Victoria.

Content warning: this story contains discussion of mental health and suicide.

After losing two young people to suicide within a matter of days in 2008, Macedon Ranges Shire youth worker Pauline Neil decided to do something about youth mental health in the community. Years later, her work lives on as Youth Live4Life, Australia’s only mental health education and youth suicide prevention model designed specifically for rural and regional communities. 

The Youth Live4Life program is led by young people, and supports youth, parents and carers, schools, and communities to help them lead positive mental health conversations and reduce the barriers that prevent young people from seeking help.

Youth Live4Life CEO, Bernard Galbally, says the key to the organisation’s success is working with local communities and their resources as well as tackling the issues of mental health and youth suicide on multiple levels.

“It’s not ‘fly-in, fly-out',” Galbally says. “It’s about building community capacity, it’s about embedding it at a local level.”

“We as a community, especially in rural and regional communities where resources are limited, have to work more collaboratively together, share resources, see where the gaps are and see where things can be filled.”

Three young women in school uniform smiling as they hold up a circular 'Live4Life' sign

The Crew youth leaders are vital in advocating for mental health education and awareness among their peers. Photo: Ties Urie/Youth Live4Life

Since launching in the Macedon Ranges, Live4Life has expanded into nine rural and regional communities across Victoria, including Benalla and the Glenelg Shire in South West Victoria, with a further 20 communities expressing their interest in establishing their own chapters.

“Live4Life was being delivered in the Macedon Ranges between 2010 and 2016, and the council undertook five years of programmatic evaluation just to see that the models worked and we had impact and it was making a difference,” Galbally says.

“All of a sudden, neighbouring communities that were experiencing the same issues started knocking on the door.”

One such community is Ballarat, which the RACV Community Foundation has provided funding to implement their own local Live4Life program.

The historic Goldfields town is just one of the Victoria’s regional and rural communities that have been affected by suicide over the last 12 months, with local health services and the council joining with Live4Life to get the program up and running. 

“This year we’ll be rolling out mental health education into eight of the 12 high schools in Ballarat,” says Galbally. “Then towards the end of the year we’re hoping Ballarat will be able to recruit the first Live4Life Crew who will start delivering Live4Life to the other schools and to the senior school years as well. And we’ve already trained over 110 adults in that community in youth mental health first aid."

“It is thanks to philanthropy, like RACV’s, that actually does the heavy lifting,” Galbally says. “We could not be where we are today without that.” 

“It’s a game changer. We are very optimistic given the local investment, both in time, energy and funds, that we can help get Ballarat up to self-sustainability.”

Bernard Galbally, Louise Steinfort, Councillor Des Hudson and Rebecca Morecroft at the Ballarat Live4Life launch

L-R: Bernard Galbally (Live4Life CEO), Louise Steinfort (GM Social Impact & Corporate Comms RACV), Cr Des Hudson (Ballarat Mayor), Rebecca Morecroft (Live4Life Director of Community Engagement). Photo: Youth Live4Life

Once invited into a community, Live4Life establishes strong partnerships between local government services, community organisations and secondary schools to work together towards the singular purpose of improving youth mental health. Evidence-based, age-tailored mental health education is then delivered to students in those schools at years 8 and 10-11, as well as to adults in their lives like parents, teachers and coaches. Finally, students in those schools can also volunteer to join The Crew, a youth leadership program that advocates for mental health literacy to their peers and community. 

Despite (or perhaps because of) the distressing statistics on youth mental health in rural and regional areas, Galbally says there’s a real hunger for local young people to engage in mental health education and advocacy. 

“Young people want to learn about mental health,” Galbally says. “And we know young people will reach out to their mates first when they’ve got a crisis. That’s why it’s so important to have this youth leadership component.” 

“I get so much joy and optimism from these young people who want to be part of the solution,” Galbally says. “They’re really dragging us to the table, it’s great to see.” 

If you would like to support RACV Community Foundation you can make a donation using the banking details as below. All donations over $2.00 are fully tax deductible. 

If you would like a receipt for your donation, please email   

Bank: NAB 

BSB: 083-001

Account Number :40-970-8004

Account Name : RACV Community Foundation Receipts