ReachOut Australia: Enabling young people to access mental health support has provided mental health support to young people since 1998 and is accessed by more than 1.3 million people annually.

27 June 2016

The problem

Mental health disorders are recognised as one of the world’s leading health challenges, costing an estimated US$2.5 trillion each year. It is also an issue that targets the young.

According to international research, 75 per cent of mental illnesses first appear before the age of 24. Yet less than 70 per cent of young people experiencing a mental health issue access help. Left untreated, the effects of mental illness can be devastating. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Australian males aged 15-24 years, accounting for 22 per cent of deaths. Male youth suicide rates in rural areas are double those of metropolitan areas.

The proposition

Digital services offer cost-effective, accessible options for young people to get support where and when they need it. Research indicates that accessing services online rather than face-to-face may also be more engaging for young men.

ReachOut Australia has provided online mental health support to young people since 1998. Accessed by more than 1.3 million people annually, is part of a wider mental health service offering in Australia that has improved mental health promotion and suicide prevention efforts dramatically over the last two decades.

"ReachOut has helped me understand myself and my issues better. Without it, I may have done the unthinkable."

Male, 23

With more than 300 evidence-based fact sheets, gives young people the information they need on a range of challenges, plus personal stories from others who have experienced similar issues. There is also an online forum offering a place to connect to others and links to clinical and community care.

The partnership

The Macquarie Group Foundation has supported ReachOut since 2000, when it provided an initial infrastructure development grant to establish the organisation’s first office in Sydney.

This investment during ReachOut’s formative years, in an untested area of service delivery, has contributed to the longstanding partnership between ReachOut and Macquarie. Multiple resources have been provided over the past 16 years to help expand ReachOut’s reach, including:

2000-2004: A$200,000 to purchase and install ReachOut’s first database, rebuild its website and help develop the organisation’s culture and structure

2006-2008: A$621,000 to establish the ReachOut Teachers Network, a website giving high school teachers information on supporting young people’s mental health

2012-2014: A$150,000 to support a project manager to develop the Recharge app to improve young men’s wellbeing

2015-2016: A$150,000 to improve ReachOut’s mobile platform Hosting donor and fundraising events in Macquarie offices

Macquarie staff have donated time, money and expertise, including:

  • Provision of pro bono technical expertise and advice for mobile service delivery
  • Participating in fundraising events across Australia
  • Volunteer support for fundraising appeals and school mail outs
  • Serving on the ReachOut Australia board

The impact

  • 70% of teachers report that ReachOut’s school resources increased their confidence in talking to young people about mental health
  • 81% of young people report they would come back to in the future
  • 70% of young people visit between 5pm and 6am when most other services are closed
  • 46% of young people using said they would seek further help as a result of visiting the website
  • 77% of the service users are in high or very high psychological distress
  • 71% of young people using are not getting help from any other source
  • 27% of Australians aged 14-25 are aware of as a mental health service they can use
  • Nearly 40% of’s users report contemplating suicide in the month prior to seeking help through the website
  • ReachOut has been accessed over 18 million times since 2000

"I find the ReachOut resources excellent. I use them consistently with staff, students and parents. It is an excellent resource for my youth worker and teacher’s aide as well.".

Rural NSW teacher
who works with students
aged 14-18 years
with mental health issues

The ReachOut Teacher’s Network has helped communicate ReachOut’s service to a large number of high school students and made them aware of the available support. Launched in 2007 and supported by Macquarie, the Network’s membership now comprises 4,300 teachers and 513 schools. Twenty-five per cent of young people who had heard of ReachOut cited their school as the initial source.

Insights from research undertaken at the University of Sydney, which identified a type of depression specific to young men that could be managed by improved sleep routines and exercise, led to a Macquarie supported ReachOut app in 2012. The Recharge app delivers a personalised six-week program focused on helping young men establish a good sleeping routine and its effectiveness is currently being measured through a randomised control trial involving Australian and Irish participants.

Source: ReachOut Australia, March 2016