Students rally for teen mental health

A cohort of Geelong secondary school students are riding, running and swimming their way to 8010 kilometres for youth mental health this month.
The year 10 students of the North Geelong Secondary College Excellence in Sports Program have formulated the 8010 Challenge, to be completed over 31 days during May.
While 18 students and their Excellence in Sport Program leader and teacher, Josh Vassallo, complete this mammoth feat, they are also hoping to raise money for headspace Geelong.
Mr Vassallo explained how the idea for the challenge formed after two tragic teen deaths in the Geelong community.
“As a teacher and coach, I was saddened by the recent passing of a student I had coached and then again by a Bellarine Secondary College student,” he said.
“The idea really stemmed from wanting to do something positive about adolescent mental health and illness awareness in Geelong – we wanted to change the negative impact into a positive one.
“Once we had the idea of a fundraiser based around physical activity, the year 10 students just took the reins and created what is now the 8010 Challenge.”
The year 10s have been riding, running, swimming and walking to get to the 8010 kilometre target, the equivalent distance from the school to the most northern tip of Australia and back again.
“This averages out to 14.4 kilometres per day for each individual, or 258.4 kilometres in total,” student Aimee Wookey said.
“Our goals are really about raising awareness of youth mental health and illness, the support strategies that are available in the Geelong community,” student Makenzie Cumper added.
“We want people to see that although things are tough, they might be hard, we can get through difficult times.
“A bonus would be to raise $4005 for headspace Geelong.”
Mr Vassallo said this challenge had helped the students stay connected during this time when the majority have been learning from home.
“They’re a close group of students and get along extremely well, but this challenge has definitely helped them to communicate, embrace one another and engage with the Geelong community,” he said.
“Obviously youth mental health is a huge ongoing area of concern in today’s society and as a secondary college we would be remiss if we weren’t consistently implementing strategies and initiatives to support our students, but also the Geelong community,” Mr Vassallo continued.
headspace Geelong Operations Manager, Grant Gibson, praised the college and its students for their contribution to youth mental health.
“This commitment to improving the lives of young people by peers in our community is inspiring,” he said.
“It is a testament to the students involved, who are starting a much-needed conversation about mental health.”
headspace recommends the ‘7 tips for a healthy headspace’ for supporting good mental health, with physical activity and maintaining connections two of the key protective factors for mental health wellbeing.
“Taking steps to maintain your mental health and wellbeing helps you live your life in a positive and meaningful way,” Grant explained.
“The students taking part in the 8010 Challenge are raising awareness of youth mental health, but in doing so, they are also undertaking steps which will support their own mental health.
“It is important, now more than ever, for everyone to look out for and support one another. And supporting your own wellbeing is central to this.”
To support North Geelong Secondary College’s 8010 Challenge, visit and select “headspace North Geelong College 80/10” as the program.
To find out more about headspace’s ‘7 tips for a healthy headspace’ visit
About headspace Geelong:
headspace Geelong, a BCYF led service program supported by Western Victoria Primary Health Network under the Australian Government’s Primary Health Networks Program, provides a range of responses to assist young people in relation to key needs such as mental health, physical health (including sexual health), alcohol and other drugs, and work and study support.
headspace Geelong runs free and confidential health services for young people aged 12-25. Young people can access headspace services for their general health and mental wellbeing through headspace centres located at Geelong, Corio and Drysdale.
Centre details, as well as factsheets and resources for young people and their families and friends, can be located at
If you would like to make an appointment at headspace Geelong, please call 5222 6690.
If you or a loved one needs help:

  • headspace Geelong: 5222 6690
  • eheadspace: 1800 650 890
  • Jigsaw triage: 1300 094 187
  • Bellarine Community Health: 5253 0400
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
  • Visit a GP or hospital ED
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