20talk: Mental health support disguised as a pint with friends.


Provided by Leighton Bradfield

The 20talk mentoring program guide.

Joshua Smith, Reporter

After losing a close friend to suicide, Leighton Bradfield felt that there needed to be more support for young people struggling mentally and emotionally. So, he did something about it, and in June 2018 the first meeting of 20talk took place in his own home.

20talk is a male-focused mental health group that provides a safe place for young men to talk about issues, without the stigma around professional help. It was designed to not only give young people a space to openly talk about their struggles, but to simultaneously provide a support network of other men who’ve faced similar challenges.

Bradfield, who founded the group with eight of his friends, said that they recognised that young adults in contemporary society often feel as though their issues are being put down and belittled.

“We saw a need. There wasn’t really a space where young guys could come together and share issues that were close to their heart,” he said.

Initially, the group would meet fortnightly to discuss issues such as manhood and masculinity, relationships, and active listening.

“We wanted to create a space where everyone could come and share with the intention of openness.”

With the one year anniversary of their first meeting looming, the growth has been rapid. With this interest, 20talk now runs a 5-week mentoring program which focusses more on individual growth, rather than group therapy. The program runs additionally to their fortnightly meetings which now happen at the Indian Beach Hotel (Indi Bar) in Scarborough.

Bradfield said the program is quite rigorous, and while the first week is a 1-on-1 “get to know you” session, the mentee then spends the next four weeks working with their mentor through topics such as identity, vision, relationships, and escapism.

Escapism, Bradfield said, refers to the way young people often deal with problems in the other three core “emotional requirements” of their life.

“When you don’t have these three main things – a direction for your life, an identity, and intimate relationships, you’re going to be resorting to a lot of other areas to fill that void in your spirit.

“We talk about drugs, alcohol, social media, and pornography, and how we can often use that as a method to escape unaddressed pain.”

According to Bradfield, though the mentors are not strictly professionals, there was professional assistance in the creation of the mentorship program.

Bradfield and the team at 20talk spent over six months refining the program with the help of professional psychologists and chaplains.

NewsVineWA reached out to the WA Mental Health Commission and Beyond Blue for their thoughts on mental health support groups like 20talk, but neither organisation was available for direct comment.

However, according to the Beyond Blue website, regular catch-ups with close friends or family is often the first step to staying mentally healthy. This is precisely what 20talk provides for young men, with the added bonus of intentionally discussing very personal issues openly.

Of course, Bradfield’s intention behind the creation of 20talk was not to replace professional help, but to simply create an alternative space for young men to talk where they might feel more comfortable sharing their feelings.

“We understand we’re not professionals, and we’re not going to take on that responsibility to be helping people in extremely dark places. 20talk is more about helping people grow,” he explained.

20talk still encourages people to seek out professional help wherever necessary, and their aim is to provide a different kind of support.

When asked about how 20talk provides support different to conventional therapy, Bradfield said: “How we differ is that we’re creating a place that’s a relatable atmosphere, where broken people can mentor broken people through our own experiences.”

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for young men in Australia, and men make up three quarters of all deaths by suicide in Australia.

While 20talk is currently male-focussed, Bradfield has begun to work with some women in his life to create the same kind of support network but with a focus on young women.

To get involved in 20talk as a mentor or mentee, visit their Facebook page here.

If you or someone you know is experiencing urgent mental health problems, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.