Our research

‘What parents worry about' Carer concerns for youth mental health and wellbeing

This report explores the concerns that parents and carers have for the young people they care for, how parents and carers are currently seeking parenting advice, and the support they need in order to feel equipped to best assist their young people through these challenging times.

Parents and carers report that their top concerns are young people’s use of social media (59%), their future (56%), school, study and exam stress (52%), and mental health (50%).

The report also shows that parents and carers are turning more often to their friends and other parents (51%) and the internet (43%), than to professional mental health services (39%) or GPs or doctors (38%), when seeking support for the issues impacting their young people. However, despite seeking help, more than 80 per cent of parents and carers reported that their needs weren’t fully met in the last 12 months.

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‘Paying the price for the rising cost of living’

This report is the third in a series of snapshots from ReachOut’s 2022 study: ‘Understanding the Issues Impacting Young People’s Mental Health’. It explores how cost of living and financial worries impact the wellbeing of young people, finding that almost a third of young people surveyed say the cost of living or having enough money is one of the top issues in their lives. 86% of young people with financial worries say these have a moderate to major impact on their mental health, affecting their sleep, motivation and mood. The report also finds a significant increase in cost-of-living stress between 2022 and 2023. Also highlighted is how young people are attempting to cope with financial worries, such as cutting back on social activities or taking on extra paid employment. Worryingly, 19% of participants said they had skipped meals in order to manage cost-of-living pressures and 11% said they missed utility payments.

Download full report 'Paying the price for the rising cost of living'

'Parenting in the digital age' Navigating concerns about the online world of young people.

This report is the first in a series of snapshots from ReachOut's 2024 study, 'What Parents Worry About: Carer Concerns for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing'. 59% of parents and carers surveyed are concerned about their young person's use of social media, citing concerns such as the amount of time spent online, safety, exposure to harmful content, and lack of parental controls to manage online risks. 55% of parents and carers who are concerned about young people’s social media use say it had ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’ of impact on the wellbeing of the people they care for. This could include young people developing an unhealthy body image, not sleeping enough, or missing out on opportunities to develop social skills. The parents surveyed perceive these things as contributing to young people’s social isolation or loneliness, which, in turn, contribute to anxiety and depression. 

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'Study stressed-out' How study stress is impacting young people's mental health.

The second in a series of snapshots from ReachOut’s 2022 study: ‘Understanding the Issues Impacting Young People’s Mental Health’, this report outlines the impact that study stress is having on the wellbeing of young people. Seven in ten young people surveyed reported that they were worried or stressed about school, study or exams, and that this had a moderate to major impact on their mental health. In particular, young people reported being worried about their future and not being able to live the life they had planned. These worries impacted their sleep and their moods, as well as their ability to focus. The report also outlines what young people do to cope, and further supports that they think could help and how it is affecting them in 2023.

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'What are you worried about?' Young people's stress burden and the impact on their wellbeing.

ReachOut’s 'What are you worried about?' Report seeks to better understand the issues that young people are experiencing and how their concerns impact on their mental health and wellbeing. The study also aims to examine how young people manage their mental health through various coping strategies and shine light on the types of supports young people have identified as helpful. 

The young people who shared their views for this research reported on a range of issues that are overshadowing their formative years. The clear picture to emerge is that worry is shaping both young people’s early adulthood and their future outlook, creating a horizon that for many feels uncertain at best and bleak at worst.

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Craving Connections: How Loneliness is Impacting Young People's Mental Health

These findings are a snapshot from ReachOut’s ‘Understanding the Issues Impacting Young People’s Mental Health’ study, a national survey of 667 young people aged 16–25 years conducted in 2022. The research aimed to explore young people's worries, concerns or stresses and the impact of these on their mental health and wellbeing. Nearly half (42 per cent) of the young people surveyed reported levels of psychological distress that could indicate serious mental health concerns. 

Of the young people who reported loneliness as one of the most concerning issues for them, stress related to feeling lonely is manifesting in different ways including: having a moderate to major impact on their mental health and wellbeing (82%), mood changes (75%), sleep issues (64%), changes to appetite (30%) and challenges with relationships (50%).

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Evidence summary: ReachOut PeerChat

ReachOut PeerChat is a safe, anonymous space for young people to be heard. Through online text chat, young people can talk for free for up to 45 minutes with a trained peer worker who has their own experience of mental health or life challenges. Peer workers encourage young people to direct the conversation, actively listen to them and support them to feel understood. The aim of PeerChat is for young people to gain clarity around what they’re dealing with and ultimately to feel better about facing it. ReachOut’s extensive user research found that young people wanted one-to-one support that is nonclinical and available at short notice in an environment where they feel comfortable and safe. ReachOut PeerChat has been co-produced with young people and peer workers to meet these needs. We’ve tailored the development process to address young people’s ongoing feedback about what mental health support they actually want. By co-producing the service with young people and peer workers with lived and living experience of mental health challenges, ReachOut has ensured the service is robust and effective and meets the real-life needs of our intended users.

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Stopping the spiral: A snapshot of ReachOut's Impact

ReachOut helps young people who are in distress feel calmer, reduces their negative feelings and gives them strategies to move forward. 

ReachOut’s 2021 Check-In study found that using ReachOut helps young people to reduce negative feelings and achieve a calmer mental state. Young people described gaining new perspectives on their problems and learning strategies to help themselves manage their mental health from ReachOut. 

This suggests ReachOut can play an important role in preventing downward emotional spirals and supporting young people to build resilience and wellbeing.

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Parents and Social Media: Research by ReachOut in collaboration with Instagram

This research has provided insights into parents' and carers' perceptions of social media, focusing on their concern about social media, their current management of their teens’ use of social media, the navigation of safety features, as well as their confidence in communicating with their teens about social media.

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Unfriendly friendships: Bullying and friendship issues and their impact on young people’s mental health and wellbeing

This report shares ReachOut’s research findings, along with evidence from academic literature, to support the following recommendations:

  • Shift the focus from set definitions of bullying to specific behaviours to ensure we reveal the full scale and complexity of the issue.
  • Review current approaches to bullying to take account of the social context in which the bullying takes place.
  • Recognise that friendship issues can have a serious impact on young people’s mental health and wellbeing, requiring a public health approach.
  • Support all young people to build skills and confidence to navigate friendship issues to ensure they are able to benefit from the protective factors that positive, healthy friendships provide.
  • Develop new resources to equip parents, carers and educators with the knowledge and tools to help young people navigate friendship issues.

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‘Supported, educated and understood’: ReachOut's impact on the wellbeing of young people living in regional, rural and remote Australia

This report aims to shine a light on the everyday lives of regional, rural and remote (rural) young people, their strengths and challenges, their mental health, and the impact ReachOut has in improving their mental health and wellbeing. Using evaluative research conducted between 2017 and 2021, we look at changes over time, drawing comparisons with similar research conducted in 2017 and shared in the Lifting the Weight report. This allows us to assess the effectiveness of ReachOut’s new tailored and targeted approach to supporting this underserved population over the past five years, enabled by dedicated, sustained funding from Future Generation Global (FGG). We also look to the future, highlighting why we need ReachOut now more than ever to continue to support rural young people and what more we can do to help them manage and improve their mental health and break down the barriers that prevent them from seeking help. 

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A measurable impact: Helping young people to be and stay well

The findings of this study showed that ReachOut provides young people with a relevant, engaging and accessible resource that helps them to understand and cope with their experiences of tough times and mental health difficulties. The findings also showed that young people who used ReachOut experienced:

  • improved mental health status
  • reduced suicide risk
  • increased help-seeking behaviour.

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Ready or not: Equipping young people for the future working world

The catalyst for this report on the need to prepare young people for a changing working world came from trends we saw in our research. Young people were telling us they were worried about the future. Would they do well enough in their exams to set themselves up for the career they wanted? Would they get a job? Would they ever be financially secure? With our research partner EY, we discovered a shared interest in prioritising areas for action that can make a difference.

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Lifting the weight: Understanding young people’s mental health and service needs in regional and remote Australia

This joint report by ReachOut and Mission Australia tells the story of the mental health and service needs of young people in regional and remote areas. 

Almost one in four young people in regional and remote Australia had a probable serious mental illness, according to Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2016. While the prevalence of mental health disorders is similar for people living in and outside of a major city, research has shown that the risk of suicide rises as distance from a major city increases. This finding indicates that young people living in regional and remote areas may be exposed to a unique set of structural, economic and social factors that result in poorer mental health outcomes. 

ReachOut Australia thanks Future Generation Global Investment Company (ASX: FGG) for their generous support of this report and of our program of research into the mental health and wellbeing of young people living in regional and remote Australia.

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ReachOut Parents: Informing a new digital service for parents of teenagers in Australia

In May 2016, we launched a new digital service called ReachOut Parents. This service aims to improve young people’s mental health and wellbeing through helping parents understand more about them and the tough times they face.

In order to inform the content and design of this new service, ReachOut carried out a suite of research activities, including a literature review, focus groups and co-design workshops, and an online survey involving a diverse group of parents.

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Smart investments to immediately boost capacity: A way forward

In a mental health system that’s struggling to cope with the existing demand, getting the right help to more people remains a key challenge. 

A Way Forward, published by ReachOut Australia and EY, reveals that the missing piece of the puzzle for addressing escalating youth mental health issues may lie in smart investments in existing online services. 

According to the report, providing e-mental health treatment to 10,000 people using online services could cost as little as $9.70 per consumer, per year, with the costs reducing as more people use the service.

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Rethinking the mental health system: Crossroads

Crossroads is a landmark collaboration between EY and ReachOut Australia that shows we urgently need to evolve the way the mental health system is oriented so as to avoid becoming economically unsustainable. 

The report advocates evolving our mental health-care system to a stepped-care framework, providing a range of scalable help options such as online service delivery and self-help.

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The cost of young men's mental illness: Counting the cost

Young men’s mental illness in Australia costs the economy more than $3 billion each year in lost productivity, as shown in this collaboration with EY supported by the Young and Well CRC. 

While the Federal Government bears 31 per cent of this cost, the remainder is carried by companies, organisations and individuals, flagging a role for businesses to address poor mental health in the workplace through early detection and diagnosis.

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