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Remembering Marcus

Marcus mission web.jpg
Published Tuesday 27 March 2018
  • Disability and Mental Health

Marcus Roberts was the kind of young man with a world of possibilities before him. He was talented in many ways – a creative soul – who was good at photography and music. Growing up in Queensland, Marcus wrote music and recorded songs with his sister, Tahlia, and spent as much time by the water as he could. He loved being outdoors, he loved his family, and he was caring to everyone around him.

This year, Marcus would have been 27 years old.

Instead, in 2014, Marcus lost his battle with depression and took his own life.

Now, a new Wesley Mission Queensland program called Marcus Mission hopes to help other young men like Marcus with the same care and kindness that Marcus showed to others.

Marcus Mission - suicide prevention initiative 

Marcus Mission aims to reduce the risk of suicide for young men aged 18-44 years through three main initiatives – skill building for young men, suicide prevention training, and the development of a volunteer mentor network. The program is initially targeting the Gold Coast and Toowoomba regions, with a view to expanding in the future. 

“Suicide is a very complex issue, and it requires a whole-of-community approach,” says Glen Wallwork, Suicide Prevention Manager with Wesley Mission Queensland. “With this in mind, we work not only with those at risk of suicide, but everyone around them – their families, friends, networks, and local community groups to build skills, knowledge, resources, and the capacity to tackle this issue.

“Recent studies have highlighted the need for young men to build resilience, negotiate conflict and manage relationship challenges. Supporting young men to develop these skills will assist them to better manage stressful life events that can increase risk of suicide. Using this and other, current evidence-based research, we have designed a range of prevention activities and initiatives to help young men work through what they’re experiencing.”

Jon and Simone Morgan, from the Sunshine Coast, are the ones behind the Marcus Mission initiative.

In 2014, Jon and Simone were looking after their nephew and Godson, Marcus, after he had returned to Australia from living overseas, travelling as a musician and photographer. Life overseas had been a big adventure, but it had not all been smooth sailing, and when he returned home, Marcus was already in a deep depression that became a strong factor towards him taking his own life.

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Marcus travel web.jpg
Marcus Photography web.jpg

 “Everyone loved Marcus,” says Jon. “He was such a creative young man. He loved music and photography. He was kind-hearted and gentle. Which I think, in a way, didn’t help. He felt things very deeply, and he didn’t have a lot of self esteem, and we all know that depression is insidious. He had such a loving family around him, who were all trying so hard to help him, but I think one of the main problems was that we didn’t really know the best way to coordinate our efforts in supporting him. It’s from that idea that Marcus Mission was born.”

Initially it was Jon and Simone’s idea to provide a residence, using an investment property they own, where young men could live while receiving support and rehabilitation. However they opted for a whole-of-community approach instead of a residential care approach, as they felt this could reach more people in more places.

With Jon’s background in crisis counselling and leadership mentoring, Simone’s compassion and leadership experience, and Glen’s expertise in mental health and suicide prevention, a partnership with Wesley Mission Queensland seemed like the right place to start.

“Knowing the work that Glen is doing with Wesley Mission Queensland, we thought, this is how we can make a difference,” explains Jon.

“Many people who lose someone to suicide do amazing things through their loss,” says Glen. “This includes taking action to reduce the risk of deaths of other community members.  When we were approached by Jon and Simone and Marcus’s family to develop a program that helps reduce the risk for young men, we were privileged to be able to establish this new initiative.

“Many communities are passionate about tackling the issue of suicide, and we are committed to working with these communities to reduce the number of lives lost to suicide.”

As part of his role with Wesley Mission Queensland, Glen delivers suicide prevention training, including Wesley LifeForce Training, which helps people recognise when someone may be having thoughts of suicide and to know how to take effective action.“Sometimes it’s simple, effective interventions that can make a real difference and save lives.” says Glen.

While Glen will facilitate suicide prevention workshops, Jon will take a key role facilitating relationship and conflict resolution courses, and emotional intelligence and resilience courses.  Marcus Mission will also offer a dedicated group of trained volunteers to mentor young men and actively support them to work through challenging times.

“Young men generally aren’t good at opening up and talking, no matter what state of mental health they have,” says Jon. “It’s really important that we reach out to them in a way that doesn’t feel confrontational. So we want to take a process-driven, mentored, activities-based approach.

“We know that there are organisations and medical professionals who can offer help to young people with depression, but who is there to help them when they leave the doctor’s office? There’s a gap that exists in community support, which is where we want mentors to step in.

“Marcus was a very active young man. He lived on the river, loved water skiing, loved sports; he loved being outside with his camera, capturing life. That was where he felt most comfortable, so that is where we could have opened up the lines of communication. We recognise the need for trained mentors, people with similar interests who can develop relationships with these young men, so that talking about your life becomes something you do when regularly sharing in an activity together. There’s less pressure.”

Instead of providing their investment property as a residence for young men to live, Jon and Simone are donating their rental income from that property towards the running of Marcus Mission.

“My biggest hope for this program is for it to grow and evolve,” says Simone. “And we want it to be flexible in addressing the needs of young men in our community. Just like the saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, we feel it takes a community to support young men at risk of suicide. Our main focus right now is building, managing and coordinating a strong base of trained mentors and support workers. They will be critical in making this program a success.

“Marcus is no longer with us, and we miss him every day. But what we couldn’t do for him, we’re going to fight really hard to do for other young men just like him. He cared so much about others, and I think he’d be really proud of this mission.”

Find out more about Marcus Mission

To find out more about Marcus Mission, please visit our suicide prevention initiatives page.

To organise a workshop for your community or for further information on Marcus Mission, please contact Wesley Mission Queensland on 1800 448 448 or email: g.wallwork@wmq.org.au

If you find this article distressing or if you are struggling with thoughts of suicide please call Lifeline: 13 11 14 or the suicide call back service: 1300 659 467.