Youth mental health foundation headspace has declared war on homophobia, bullying and depression with a new smart phone app that encourages young Australians take on the three big issues from the privacy of their own phone.
It’s part of The Fifth Army campaign, in partnership with retail clothing company Cotton On, launched on Wednesday to urge young people to stand up against those issues.
Neighbours star James Mason, who plays the gay character Chris, said they were trying to raise awareness around homophobia and bullying.
“First hand I can’t say I’ve experienced it myself but through my character I’ve learnt a lot about homosexuality and the traumas people can face when coming out,” he said.
“There’s so many people out there, young people and the general public who have no idea what someone would go through in these circumstances so it’s really great to be involved in something like this and help create awareness.”
He said it was very important to tackle homophobia through education, not just for young people coming out but also for people with friends and family who were LGBTI.
Headspace CEO Chris Tanti told the Star Observer that homophobia was one the key areas because of the high levels of risk taking in the LGBTI community.
“What we know about same-sex attracted people, particularly men in the community, is that on top of the suicide rate being four times what it is in the mainstream community, the level of substance use is triple, quadruple what it is in the mainstream community as well,” he said.
“I think that’s about acceptance, I think one of the difficulties when you’re different in our society is that you struggle to gain acceptance and you struggle to find where you fit.
“We want to really make sure that the community know we support same-sex attracted young people and they are welcome and safe in our centres.”
About 36 per cent of eheadspace users, the 24-hour free online and telephone support service, are same-sex attracted.
“We’re hoping people can have some fun with the app… we’re hoping that people will at least realise that homophobia is a really big deal,” Tanti said
Once the app is downloaded young people can watch videos, undergo ‘missions’ and earn points to move up ‘army’ ranks and Cotton On store rewards.
Ruby Rose, singer Sarah De Bono and Channel Ten Bondi Rescue star Trent ‘Maxi’ Maxwell are also part of the campaign.