CONTENT WARNING: This post discusses youth suicide.

A new mentorship program for young queer and queer-questioning Aussies with the aim of reducing youth suicide has finally launched – and it couldn’t come at a better time.

StartOut Australia is a mentoring program that aims to connect young Diverse Sexuality and Gender (DSG) Aussies with older ones is officially launching tonight.

It’s been three years in the making, co-founder Adam Dent told PEDESTRIAN.TV, and it’s just “pure coincidence that that we’re finally ready to launch in the middle of one of the most horrendous public debates,” a.k.a. this nightmare of a postal survey.

He and co-founder Brendan White developed the idea after seeing issues pop up in their own friendship group.

“Young people who should have otherwise been okay were struggling to come to terms with their sexuality,” he said. After conducting research, they ultimately landed on mentoring as a way to combat this, with online being the ultimate method of delivery.

One of the challenges of course is that the young people we’re targeting aren’t out yet, so online is how we do it,” he said, which also makes it possible to reach out to queer-questioning kids in rural or regional communities that might not have access to a supportive network.

LGBTQIA people have one of the highest suicide rates of anyone in the country, with queer people up to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual people.

“At the moment, the average first age of a suicide attempt for an LGBT person is around 16,” he continued. “The average age of coming out is still about 19. Young people are taking their lives before they work out that things are actually going to turn out okay.”

The mentoring program will pair up young queer or queer-questioning kids with slightly older people in the community who have faced similar challenges and experiences, or maybe who simply have similar personalities.

“One of the things you want to make sure is that a young person knows they’ve got someone in their corner,” says Adam, adding that building trust between mentor and mentee is of crucial importance. “There’s a lot of places you can go for quick online counselling support. What we really want to do is put somebody there who can be a role model, so they can work with things over time.”

The whole thing kicks off with a fab Sydney launch party tonight. If you’re keen to get down there, learn more about this amazing program, or if your’e interesting in becoming / finding a mentor, then head over to StartOut.org.au.

If you are currently experiencing suicidal thoughts, give the people over at Lifeline a call on 13 11 14. For support elsewhere, you can call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Headspace on 1800 650 890, or QLife on 1800 184 529 (open 3pm to midnight).

Image: StartOut Australia