Growing up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches isn’t all sandy shorelines and cosy cafes - just ask Ocean Alley guitarist Mitch Galbraith.
Feeling “privileged” to hail from a community with plenty of “work and places to play”, Mitch reflects that his seemingly always-sunny hometown is not immune to the devastating effects of youth suicide.
“Mental health (issues) and youth suicide is very prevalent in our area,” he told HuffPost Australia.
“It’s a thing that has affected us all directly in the band. I’ve lived here my whole life, I’m 28, there’s been a dozen people.
“It’s quite a bubble, as small communities are and everyone knows everyone. It’s just something that keeps happening.”
With critically acclaimed second album Chiaroscuro, a triple j Hottest 100 #1 and world tours under their belt, the band is coming home to the beaches this week where they’ll host a music festival to raise awareness around mental health.
Mitch told HuffPost Australia the event is not only the band’s way of raising cash for a cause they’re passionate about, but an opportunity to give back to their community.
“Day At The Beaches is raising money for two charities we work with,” he said.
“One Eighty is a new mental health initiative up on the Northern Beaches. They facilitate catch-up evenings and make a space for people to talk about mental health and host a space for people to be educated about mental health awareness.”
Off the back of the six-piece band’s 2019 success, Mitch said a hectic schedule and the demands of being on the road has taken its toll.
“We’ve felt that first-hand the most it’s ever been this past year. The way we get through it is our friends and lucky for us, we’re a band that’s made up of good friends,’ the guitarist said.
“Regardless whether you’re friends or not, the solution of being aware of everyone’s mental health is to talk about it openly, rely on your friends for support and ask people for help.”
Suicide is the leading cause of death among Australians aged 15-44, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
A recent report by Mission Australia and Black Dog Institute shows considerably more young people in Australia are experiencing psychological distress than seven years ago.
The report showed that in 2018, almost one in four young people said they were experiencing mental health challenges, with young females twice as likely as males to face this issue.
Mitch wants more people to talk openly about mental health by engaging with programs such as One Eighty’s ‘Opening Up’ Sessions.
“It’s a relaxed and laid back environment, there’s no signing up or records, it’s conversations and a space for communities to meet, as I’m sure they did before the age of computers and telephones,” he said.
“This is a place for people to get together and talk about society and talk about their community together. They’re not therapy sessions, but they’re there to facilitate a space for people to have conversations about mental health.”
A Day At The Beaches is a drug and alcohol free event and will take over Narrabeen’s Rat Park this Saturday 16 November.
You can also catch the lads at Laneway Festival in 2020.
If you or someone you know needs help:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
Headspace on 1800 650 890
Outside of Australia, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.