In the beginning
In 1992, a young man took his life on a farm in Victoria. His death devastated his friend and family, who now numbered among the thousands of people who have been deeply affected by the increasing rates of suicide in Australia.
The loss of his and other young lived sparked an idea that would transform the way young people found help.
In 1997 the Inspire Foundation, now known as ReachOut Australia, was established by Jack Heath to harness the potential of the internet, becoming the world’s first online mental health service for young people.
Driven by young people
From the moment it launched in 1998, ReachOut.com was driven and supported by young people. Over 7000 Australians pitched in to get it off the ground, raising $180,000 through Triple J’s ‘Real Appeal’. At the time, one young person in Australia ended their life every 47 hours.
When challenged with the question of how to ensure ReachOut was relevant to young people, one member of the team suggested that young people themselves should co-design the service. This person was Jono Nicholas – now the CEO of ReachOut.
The first Youth Advisory Board was made up of ten young Australians, who helped shape the development of ReachOut. Since then, we’ve worked closely with young people to ensure that ReachOut meets the needs of all young Australians, regardless of their location, gender or sexuality.
Finding new ways to reach out
ReachOut soon launched a number of additional services to help young Australians be happy and well. The Beanbag program worked with marginalised young people, while ActNow provided young people with opportunities to take action on the issues they cared about. Between 1999 and 2004, ReachOut also engaged with over 36,000 young people through a series of tours to schools in regional, rural and remote Australia.
Once the digital revolution began, it was clear that the focus should return to ReachOut.com. We knew we could reach more young people online and give them the help they needed, when and where they needed it.
The ReachOut.com model was so successful it expanded to the United States in 2005 and Ireland in 2009. In Australia, we launched ReachOut Professionals to help youth workers, health professionals and schools support the mental health and wellbeing of young people, using ReachOut.com as a resource.
ReachOut.com strengthened its commitment to delivering evidence-based services by establishing the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) in 2010. The centre undertakes research and evaluation to assess the needs of young people, while building sustainable partnerships with academic institutions and other organisations.
Connecting in the digital age
ReachOut uses an innovative approach and the latest technology to connect with young people, from a mobile site and apps including The Sorter and Recharge, to online games such as ReachOut Central. These digital tools have dramatically increased the number of young people who access help and information on ReachOut.com.
While we’re proud of our work to date,
we know there’s much more that needs to be done.
Suicide is still the leading cause of death of young people, and fewer than 30 per cent of young people experiencing distress receive the help they need.
To achieve our vision of helping all young people be happy and well, ReachOut will continue to look for new ways to reach, connect with and engage young people in Australia.