What a year it has been. Last year was tough on so many levels but this year has thrown a whole new set of challenges at all of us and continued to test our resilience.
Young people, parents and schools have been significantly impacted by the events of 2021 and everyone’s mental health has been affected in some way, shape or form. From lockdowns, to remote learning, and the continued health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been a challenging year all round.
But for every challenge there is an opportunity to deliver lasting change. For us, 2021 meant more than helping people through the immediate challenges of the pandemic. It was also about looking ahead and making sure we are well prepared to support young people, parents and schools as they adjust to living with COVID-19 in the community.
As you’d expect for a digital, youth-focused service, innovation remains a strong focus at ReachOut. We continue to evolve the service to meet the changing needs of young people and parents and have recently created a refreshed online community with exciting new features. (And keep an eye out for further innovations being rolled out next year that will set the pace for our next chapter of digital mental health service delivery.)
In 2020, 454 young people in Australia aged 15–24 died by suicide, and sadly it remains the leading cause of death among young Australians. This year, we’ve worked hard to make sure young people knew they were not alone and to equip them with strategies to cope with their experiences.
More than 3 million people sought support from ReachOut. We helped each of them by boosting their knowledge and confidence, and by providing tools and support to engage with effective self-help strategies to improve their mental health status, reduce suicide risk and increase help-seeking behaviour.
The Government’s focus on mental health and wellbeing reform has been extremely positive this year – but there is so much more to do. We are especially grateful for the new federal funding we received in the Budget and the ongoing generous support of our corporate partners and community fundraisers, which has enabled us to continue to build on our service delivery model. Our evidence-informed service is integral to the mental health system, and working towards integration – on a national, regional and local scale – with our equally committed sector partners is vital.
I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been part of the 2021 journey – our incredible youth ambassadors, volunteers, supporters, partners, board members and our team. You are the heart and soul of this organisation and I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of individuals to work alongside during this challenging year. Your resounding passion and commitment to making a difference in the lives of young people is nothing short of extraordinary.
So, as we adjust to living with COVID-19 in the community, let’s pace ourselves, practice self-compassion and continue to be kind to one another. Together, we have a once-in-a generation opportunity to inspire hope and enact unprecedented change for the mental health of young people in Australia.