CW: This story talks about grief and loss of a loved one.
I found ReachOut during a transitional period of my life. I was struggling with my mental health after suddenly losing my dad and looking for support wherever I could find it. I started to search online for content that I could resonate with and people that could connect with my experiences, and that’s when I came across ReachOut.
ReachOut’s educational resources and online community guided me through one of the most challenging times in my life. When I saw that they were looking for volunteers I jumped at the chance to apply.
In 2020, I applied to ReachOut’s Youth Ambassador Program. Having faced my own mental health challenges and recognising the benefits of a service like ReachOut, I was driven to get involved and to share my learnings and experiences with those that were facing similar struggles.
When I got the call up that I had been accepted I was over the moon.
During my time at ReachOut I have shared my story at events such as Meta’s Metaverse and at ReachOut’s All-In staff day. I have been featured on TV talking about the cost of living crisis, and the North Shore times talking about future stress on young people.
Volunteering at ReachOut has been a privilege that has provided many benefits for my mental health, just as the service itself did when I was in need of support for my grief.
For starters, devoting my time to something I'm passionate about is immensely fulfilling. Being able to share my story and encourage open discussions about mental health and grief is truly meaningful.
The connections I've made at ReachOut have also contributed immensely to my wellbeing. Walking into a room full of passionate individuals working towards the same goal of improving mental health outcomes for young people is an incredible feeling. Whether we share similar lived experience or simply have a shared drive to make a difference, having this commonality and connection with others who share my passion has greatly improved my own mental health and wellbeing.
In February 2022, I was the first young person appointed to ReachOut's Board. This transition from a volunteer role, to a formal position has been a ‘pinch me’ moment. Sharing my own perspective based on lived-experience to help shape ReachOut’s services, and providing insight into the struggles and challenges faced by other young people in regards to mental health is a humbling experience. I do not take the role I play in helping to deliver services that truly meet the needs of young people in Australia lightly.
In my short time as Board Director I have also realised just how important our Youth Ambassador Program is to advocating for better mental health outcomes for young people, and developing services that respond to their unique needs.
Volunteering at ReachOut was truly a transformative experience for me. It has been a powerful source of healing and personal growth. As I move forward in my new role as a Board Director, I am excited to continue using my own experiences to create a brighter future for young people who are experiencing mental health challenges. I also look forward to continuing to reflect on my own mental health challenges and gain a deeper appreciation for my own lived experiences.
Want to volunteer at ReachOut? Then this is the perfect time for you!
We’re looking for 18–25 years-old living in Australia to provide peer support to other community members and ensure our Online Community remains a fun and safe place for people to connect online: https://about.au.reachout.com/volunteer/eoi-oc-builder
Learn more about other volunteer opportunities here: https://about.au.reachout.com/volunteer
Tiara De Silva is a Board Director at leading youth mental health service ReachOut.