Student's phenomenal work to stamp out suicide
"HEY Mitch, I'm not sure if you know yet, but Tor suicided on Sunday and was in hospital in a critical condition due to the swelling on his brain. He passed away last night in hospital. Just thought you deserved to know if you hadn't been told already."
This was the devastating Facebook message a Warwick teenager woke to on November 2, 2016 and the catalyst for an idea that would make him an ambassador for Australia's largest youth mental health organisation.
Six months since after launching a clothing brand designed to help prevent youth suicide, Scots PGC student Mitchell Ford reflected on the days following the death of one of his closest friends.
"I began crying uncontrollably for hours, crying myself to sleep, crying in my sleep and waking up crying," he said.
"The days and weeks following his suicide I felt empty. I began to feel angry at him and myself. I was angry at him for believing this was his only option. Angry at him for leaving like this."
When a second friend, Amy "Dolly" Everett also died by suicide earlier this year, Mitchell decided something had to happen.
"I was sitting in class one day and it just sort of came to me and I thought "prevention" that is cool, I like that," Mitchell said.
The idea inspired a simple t-shirt design featuring the PRVT logo and which Mitchell hoped would spark a conversation and reduce stigma around mental health.
"I did it to push the message that you're not alone," he said.
"You can be helped and having a mental illness doesn't make you crazy or weird."
But when he decided to donate the profits from his first sales to headspace in Warwick, Mitchell made a big impression.
"It's not every day we get teenagers walking in here wanting to make a donation, so he definitely caught our attention," headspace manager Travis Maguire said.
Executives at headspace national soon decided to make him an official ambassador for the Australia-wide youth mental health organisation.
"We were extremely impressed with his level of motivation," Mr Maguire said.
"It is a simple brand and a simple message but it's effective.
View this post on Instagram
ITS OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY. YOU CAN BE HELPED IT CAN GET BETTER! November 2, 2016. I woke up at 5:00 in the morning to see a Facebook message from an old friend. The message read, “Hey Mitch,I'm not sure if you know yet, but Tor suicided on Sunday and was in hospital in a critical condition due to the swelling on his brain. He passed away last night in hospital. Just thought you deserved to know if you hadn't been told already 😕. “ Tor was one of my oldest and best friends. I began crying uncontrollably for hours, crying myself to sleep, crying in my sleep and waking up crying. I don't really remember much of that day or even the days following. I found myself stuck between following through with my year in America or coming home. As many of you know I decided to stay. The days and weeks following his suicide I felt empty. I began to feel angry at him and myself. I was angry at him for believing that this was his only option. Angry at him for leaving like this. Angry at myself for not knowing he was in pain, angry at myself because maybe, just maybe, if I messaged him the night before he would still be here, angry at the thought that I might have been able to do something. Tor was a person who went out of his way to put a smile on everyone's faces. It seemed to be his unspoken mission to make everyone as happy as he could. He had an infectious smile and for him to leave so abruptly really makes my heart hurt. To know that he felt this was the only way out makes me so so sad. If you are in pain you need to know that you are not alone; you are loved and if you were no longer here, you would be deeply missed by many. Please do not let a temporary emotion dictate a permanent action. Things can get better, things will get better … reach out … find help. Silence is not an option … I know it’s sometimes unbelievably hard but don’t be silent. Remember, you don’t want to die you just want the pain to stop. Never forget that there is always help available to help the pain stop. I don’t want your sympathy I simply want to encourage others to speak up! I miss you Tor I miss you brother. This is part of my Story. What’s Yours ? Love Mitch. Go to the ‘
"For a teenage Year 12 student to do all this while going through exams, that's a phenomenal effort."
From creating the website to designing shirts, 18-year-old Mitchell built PRVT Apparel from scratch.
He has since seen orders come in from all around Australia.
But even more inspiring are the connections he has formed with other young people.
"I have got a lot of messages from people who have their own stories" Mitchell said.
"Mental illness is like the family secret that everyone has, but when someone opens up about it, it's like 'oh, I have been through that, too'.
"I think that's awesome and that is what encourages me to keep pushing."
If you or someone you know needs help, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.