Boxer and beauty queen unite to boost youth mental health

A boxing legend and a beauty queen are joining forces to battle bullies and empower young Queenslanders to protect their mental health.

Former welterweight world champion Jeff Horn and 2015 Miss International Australia Larissa Hlinovsky have both experienced mental health struggles and are concerned by the rise of depression and anxiety among children and young people.

Mr Horn will discuss his story and mental health strategies at an online forum for young people, parents, teachers and counsellors later this month.

The webinar on 30 October is being hosted by the Mater Young Adult Health Centre and Mater Education and will showcase the potentially lifesaving services available to young people aged 16 to 25.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 40 per cent of people aged 16 to 24 years reported experiencing a mental health disorder in the past 12 months.

Mr Horn, a former Brisbane school teacher, said that being bullied at school pushed him to the brink of suicide.

The 35-year-old is now an ambassador for BullyProof Australia, a program aimed at changing attitudes towards bullying and mental health at every school in Australia.

“Bullying and mental health issues are very close to my heart,” Mr Horn said.

“Bullying doesn’t just happen in the school yard, it happens everywhere.

“Mental illness in young people can affect areas such as education, achievement, relationships, and occupational success.

“For me, this webinar is a great opportunity to stand side-by-side with Mater to stop bullying no matter what age.”

Ms Hlinovsky, 34, said she suffered bullying at her all-girl Brisbane high school, with classmates isolating her and spreading unfounded rumours.

She said she continued to suffer bullying behaviour from young women even as she succeeded as a beauty queen and professional model.

“I have experienced bullying in my professional career, with individuals making up false rumours about me – and this has had an impact on my emotional wellbeing,” she said.

“Today bullying is now even more prominent online and on social media, which makes it easier to target victims and have a greater impact when spreading false information about them.”

Ms Hlinovsky, of Hawthorne, said bullying had destroyed too many young lives.

Cheering on Mr Horn from the sidelines, Ms Hlinovsky said: “This webinar will help carers to empower young individuals to have their own voice so that they can help empower others”.

“I wish that I had a program or known about services that could have helped me to learn to stand up bullies whether that was at school, relationships and even the workplace.”

Director of Mater Young Adult Health Centre Professor Simon Denny and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Anya Synder will join Mr Horn to discuss the various services dedicated to young people at Mater, including the Mater Young Adult Health Centre Brisbane in-patient ward – the only unit of its kind in Australia.

The centre provides access to specialist health clinics, professional emotional health support as well as free, confidential services for young people who experience issues with substance misuse.

Prof Denny said some of the more common mental health challenges that may be faced by young Queensland adults include depression, anxiety and eating disorders, as well as bullying at school and in the workplace.

“Webinar attendees will hear about how young people and their families can cope with adversity and stay healthy in challenging times,” Prof Denny said.

To register for the webinar on 30 October from 6-7pm, visit here.


Pictured: Former welterweight world champion Jeff Horn and 2015 Miss International Australia Larissa Hlinovsky.

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