A young social media star is making waves in mental health awareness thanks to a heartfelt video that has gone viral.
Alex Hayes discusses the difficult topic of suicide with his 611k Instagram followers, bravely opening up about the devastating effect of losing a lifelong friend to the illness last year.
The shock death of his pal — who was just 19 — has inspired Alex to take part in 60km paddleboarding race to raise funds for a charity that helps young Aussie’s battling the condition.
“The loss of my friend opened my eyes to how real this sh*t is,” Alex told Be.
“If there’s any way I can help people through their struggles and point them in a healthier direction to their own self-discovery, I am going to do that.”
The 20-year-old from Sydney, who rose to fame on Instagram thanks to his incredible travelling photographs and videos, is still reeling from the death of his “incredibly kind” friend.
Alex has fond memories of their school bus rides together, saying he will “always miss” the mate who grew up just down the road from each other.
“He played a big part of helping me grow up and I will never forget all the things he did for me,” he said. “He was an incredibly kind and amazing person.”
Alex himself is no stranger to mental illness, admitting he struggled after being “bullied on a daily basis” at school, saying he was targeted when his social media account took off six years ago.
“I struggled deeply with mental illness through school and dealt with a lot of bullying, on a daily basis,” he said.
Now the Insta-famous star is set to take part in the Molokai Paddleboarding Championships in Hawaii next month, hoping to raise $250,000 for Batyr.
“My goal for this race is obviously to raise money and awareness for mental illness and suicide prevention, but I also want to set an example,” Alex said. “If I can step out of my comfort zone and do something that is perceived as ‘unachievable’, anyone watching can too.”
Since Alex shared his video yesterday, it has received thousands of messages of support from people around the world.
“Thank you for doing this, I bet it means a lot to so many people,” one user wrote, while many others thanked him for using his platform for good.
“You’re going to inspire so many people and change so many lives! Go get em, Alex!” one said.
The post has event caught the attention of Love Island host Sophie Monk, who shared the moving clip with her 500k fans.
If you’d like to donate to Alex’s efforts, click here.
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