RICHMOND'S Steven Morris says living through the devastation of having a mate nearly bashed to death has driven him to educate others about the consequences of violence.
Morris had just turned 20 in 2008 when he was woken in the early hours of the morning to the news that his St Bernard's schoolmate David Mitchell was fighting for life after being viciously attacked outside a Melbourne nightclub.
Mitchell had been looking the other way when he was punched in the back of the head, and then stomped on and kicked as he lay on the pavement.
He was rushed to hospital and it was feared he wouldn't survive the night.
"I was living in Adelaide at the time and woke up to a missed call at 4.30am and it was one of my best mates who said that they were all at the hospital and making a bedside vigil with the family," Morris told AFL.com.au.
"I just felt helpless, I couldn't do anything, and they did as well even though they were there.
"You put yourself in the position of the family and it's something you don't want anyone going through."
Mitchell, brother of former Carlton player Luke, was put into an induced coma and later suffered post-traumatic amnesia.
He couldn't remember his own name or his family members, and had to learn to walk and talk again.
Thankfully Mitchell has recovered to a point where Morris can catch up with him "as if nothing's ever happened", but not every victim of violence is so fortunate.
In 2006, James Macready-Bryan suffered catastrophic brain damage from which he will never recover after a savage late-night attack in the Melbourne CBD.
Macready-Bryan's assault led to the formation of 'Step Back Think', a program – advocated by Mitchell and Morris - that aims to educate school students about the consequences of violence.
Morris believes the message is getting through, however the death of Darren Bell - a spectator at a football match in Victoria's south-west who was knocked unconscious and suffered a heart attack last weekend - shows more needs to be done in the wider community.
"Dave (Mitchell's) family is lucky and he's lucky, but there's plenty out there who aren't so lucky and I think that was highlighted on the weekend again," Morris said.
"James Macready-Bryan wasn't so lucky. He's still in a hospital bed nine years later."
Since 2000, there have been at least 96 deaths related to street violence in Australia, according to the 'Step Back Think' website.
Of those deaths, 86 were males and 85 were victims of a single punch.
The highest number of incidents occurred amongst people aged 15-29.
"Like most issues, it's all about education," said Morris, who is also spreading the anti-violence message through the AFL's Respect and Responsibility program.
"I talk to kids at schools and educate them about what I went through in that situation and how much worse it can be.
"Alcohol just changes people's mindsets, people are a lot more confident and don't think as clearly.
"Hopefully, if people have had a few drinks, if they're aware and have been educated they'll think about the process through the night, or when that situation arises at least it's in the back of their mind.
"It's only a small thing but if it can make a difference to one or two people who have a bit more of a think about it when they're out or find themselves in those situations, then it's definitely worth it."