ReachOut, the world’s first online mental health service, continues to lead the way and change lives.
Statistics show that more than 50 percent of young people turn to the internet when facing tough times – and that’s where ReachOut comes to the fore.
2 April, 2019
According to ReachOut Australia one in four people in Australia aged between 14 and 25 live with a mental health difficulty
While each generation that passes will inevitably undergo their own set of challenges as they navigate the teenage years, today’s teens are charting a course through the wonder years in the face of technology, social media, cyber bullying and mental health difficulties.
The statistics don’t lie. According to ReachOut Australia one in four people in Australia aged between 14 and 25 live with a mental health difficulty; and of that one in four, 70 percent don’t get the help they need. Moreover, suicide remains the leading cause of death for young Australians. What we do know is that after friends and family, the Internet is the first place young people turn to for information and support; and that’s where ReachOut Australia comes into play.
ReachOut has been changing the way people access help since launching as the world’s first online mental health service more than 20 years ago.
“The work that we do is focused on early intervention so young people can really focus on accessing help before problems escalate,” explains Dr Kerrie Buhagiar, Director of Services for ReachOut Australia.
“There are a lot of reasons why people won’t seek help; partly because there’s still a lot of stigma around mental health, partly because of barriers to access, partly because young people feel a real sense of autonomy and want to be able to fix things themselves; so we try and make sure ReachOut is available to them in a really simple, accessible way.”
Built around the model of peer support, whether a teen’s issue is big or small, ReachOut aims to reduce barriers of isolation using self-help tips, online forums, case studies, programs and a host of relevant content, which has been developed with experts, and young people or their parents.
Available at no cost anytime, and generally anywhere, ReachOut is accessed online by 132,000 people in Australia every month, equating to more than 1.58 million people each year.
“We often speak to young people about challenges that are on their minds and we know that bullying and cyber bullying are big issues, but everyday things like exam stress and worrying about what the future’s going to hold for them are really big stressors for young people as well. So we’ve got a range of information on a lot of different topics and we very much work with young people to determine what their issues are, and make sure that they’ve got support around things that matter to them,” says Buhagiar.
What started as a tool for young people has more recently also become a resource for parents. ReachOut acknowledges that we could all do with more information when it comes to raising teenagers and that parents are really important agents in terms of getting their child the support that they need. And of course ReachOut also recognises that parents also need a forum where they can ask for help.
The ReachOut Parents Coaching Program, delivered by ReachOut Australia and The Benevolent Society is just one of the ways the organisation recognises that parents may not have faced the same problems that young people today face. It makes sense. Anecdotally, parents with primary school aged children are engaged with other parents at the school gates. Furthermore they receive a lot of support during early childhood. But by the time teenagers get to high school, parents are perhaps more isolated and don’t have as much support as they used to have. This program, again, seeks to take away that isolation.
The ReachOut Parents Coaching Program recognises that parents may not have faced the same problems that young people today face
The Audi Foundation has partnered with ReachOut assisting with essential funding and in-kind support for ReachOut's parent service
This is where the Audi Foundation, celebrating its second year, enters the equation. The Audi Foundation has partnered with ReachOut assisting with essential funding and in-kind support for ReachOut's parent service. The Audi Foundation has supported the development and accessibility of the ReachOut platform, and the expansion of the reach of this inimitable program is integral to the ReachOut vision for 2020.
Buhagiar explains, “One of the things we really want to make sure of is that every young person and parent in Australia knows about ReachOut so that they can access support at the time that they need”.
Between young people and parents, we’ve all got questions. And while today parents are often consumed with uncertainty around topics such as ‘how much time online is too much time online?’ according to Buhagiar, young people don’t see their world as being online and offline; online is just part of their world.
“Rather than focusing on how much time young people are spending online we suggest to parents that they focus more on what their child is doing online. Technology can be a really positive thing; it offers free social connection, it’s also a place young people go to learn, it can enhance creativity, it can even be an avenue for accessing mental health support – there are a lot of benefits.” Case in point: ReachOut Australia.
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