Kai Eardley Fund – creating opportunity out of tragedy

One of the most challenging health-related issues facing Australians today is that of mental health. And the consequences of severe mental health disorders can be devastating to the friends and families of victims. The statistics tell us that suicide is the largest cause of death among men aged 19 to 45 – and for every one of those statistics there is a very personal tale of grief.

Claire Eardley’s son Kai took his own life in 2016, leaving his parents, brothers Cam and Joey, and his girlfriend Jasmyn heartbroken but determined. To honour Kai’s memory they would embark on a mission to create positive change for the mental health of today’s youth. Together they created the Kai Eardley Fund at the Fremantle Foundation, with the aim of developing a peer based program available to young men to provide them with the skills to navigate mental illness and endure the crises they will inevitably encounter in life.

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Through the Kai Eardley Fund, Claire has been able to support the delivery of mental health workshops delivered by Tom Bell, one of “The bloke whispers” featured in the recent ABC Man Up program. Participants find out that men can be strong, dependable and tough – in keeping with our traditional Aussie self-image – but shouldn’t be afraid to have times when they are emotionally fragile or feel vulnerable. And yes, men can even cry.

By the end of the workshop, the boys involved are able to redefine what it is to be a man, and have a greater understanding of the true complexity and diversity of masculinity. They also learn the value of friendship, and being able to rely on each other for support.

Through support for the Kai Eardley Fund, Claire aims to bring Tom Bell back to WA to deliver as many as 80 workshops in 2018, providing a road to positive mental health for some 2400 young West Aussie blokes. They’ve raised the funds, they have the proof that it works, and the positive change it can bring.

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