By Kath Gannaway

When someone walks up to Neil Milton and asks “what’s that all about?” or tells him “I really need to read that today,” it’s opening a conversation that the Healesville father-of-three says we need a lot more of.

Neil started Positive T-Shirts in 2016 and it’s the messages on each T-shirt or hoodie that prompts that response.

He was in between jobs and says he had always wanted to start a clothing brand.

“There was so much negative messaging on people’s clothing, I wanted to change the game.

“I started the Positive brand in the hope we could change the statistics around youth suicide, bring a positive spin on clothing and get people taking about youth suicide,” said Neil, who has worked with young people for 16 years.

In that time he has seen the devastation to families, friends and the community from youth suicide.

When he was 20 he witnessed someone end their life. It had a life-changing impact.

The messages are simple, from Beautiful and I’m Yours to more compelling messages including Don’t Lose Hope, Love Your Life, Anything is Possible and Embrace Life.

A new T-shirt with Talk Out Loud, just released, is in memory of a young man who suicided last year in the Maroondah area.

Neil said each garment had a story attached in the hope of inspiring people, and getting them talking.

“I’ve been wearing my street clothes and people come up and say ‘I really need to read that today’.

“They’ll ask ‘Don’t Lose Hope … what’s that about?

“They begin a conversation – ‘my son passed away’ or ‘someone in my school did’, or they’ll say ‘to be honest I’m really struggling, I need some help’.

“It opens up the conversation; woven into the fabric of every piece of cloth is the opportunity to start a conversation about youth suicide,” he said.

The statistics are chilling, and Neil said the suicide rate in Yarra Ranges and Maroondah was high.

Nationally, suicide rates for 15 to 24-year-olds are the highest in 10 years.

A third of all deaths of young men are due to suicide; twice as many 15 to 19-year-old women died by suicide than in 2005; 41,000 young people aged 12 to 17 have made a suicide attempt; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, LGBTIQ, and seriously mentally ill youth are at high risk.

Profits from the sale of Positive garments, which include baby rompers to T-shirts and hoodies, go to youth suicide prevention organisation In2Life.

“I want people to choose my brand, not just because it looks great, but because of the cause,” Neil said.

“If we can get more people wearing these products, more people talking about the messages, about suicide, maybe we could save some lives.”

Visit www.positivetshirts.com.au for the Positive story, the garment lines and to order.

Healesville Junior Football Club, where Neil is a committee member, will have a speaker from In2Life address each team at the club’s final home match for the season on Sunday 29 July.

Search ‘saving young lives’ at mountainviews.mailcommunity.com.au for the full story.

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