Thu, Jul 1, 2021 12:38 PM

Sharing stories to get young men talking

Nayland College student Will Irvine, 16, is the founder of Instagram page BroTalk, which is aimed at getting young men talking about their mental health. Photo: Erin Bradnock.

Erin Bradnock

Will Irvine wants to get young men talking. Aotearoa has the developed world’s highest youth suicide rate and men are three to four times more likely to die by suicide than women.

In the wake of these daunting statistics, 16-year-old Nayland College student Will Irvine has created an Instagram page called BroTalk which is aims to get young men talking.

Will says BroTalk is about facilitating conversations surrounding mental health with young men sharing their own struggles and experiences.

“It all starts with the attitudes on the playground. There's no room for sadness or grief for men, instead you’re expected to get aggressive or angry. There needs to be safe spaces for men to be sad,” says Will.

Will was inspired to make the platform two months ago through the Young Leaders programme led by Volunteer Nelson.

"I was struggling to work out what to work on while also struggling with my own mental health," he says.

As of this week, the page is nearing 200 followers with contributions from Will’s peers, including longtime friend Tiaki Sharp.

Tiaki, 16, was the first to contribute to the page and was eager to join the conversation when Will approached him.

“Growing up I’ve had some trouble with emotional stuff, even though I’ve dealt with a lot of it on my own, it’s still there,” says Tiaki.

After a conversation with Will and a photo, Tiaki shared his story on BroTalk.

Tiaki’s post touched on struggling to cope with anger growing up and his experiences of racism as a young Māori man in Aotearoa.

“There’s a lot of negative stereotypes about being Māori, I’ve known it all my life. It’s an awareness I’ve always had,” he says.

Will says BroTalk has shared eight stories so far, mainly from his peers at school but he is looking to broaden the page’s scope.

“I’m keen to try and get more stories from outside of my own community and expand outside my own circle.”

He says BroTalk regularly receives messages from people sharing their gratitude for the page.

“So far there’s been a lot of support and it’s a real positive space. Ultimately, change can start with talking to each other."