The evidence behind ReachOut.com

ReachOut.com is Australia’s oldest online youth mental health service, helping young people to get the information and skills required to address emerging mental health problems and build skills for resilience and wellbeing. This article outlines the evidence of need, ReachOut.com’s focus for mental health, and how ReachOut.com aims to increase help seeking. Get information on the impact objectives, program outputs, and the evidence of impact.

This will help you to:

  • understand the purpose and objectives of ReachOut.com
  • understand the evidence behind ReachOut.com
  • understand how ReachOut.com helps young people
ReachOut.com ipad and mobile

ReachOut.com’s focus: Prevention and early-intervention

ReachOut.com is designed to intervene early in the development of mental health disorders among young people.

Mental disorders are the leading contributor to the burden of disease and injury (49%) among young Australians aged 15–241, and one in four young people have a mental disorder2. Approximately 75% of mental disorders have their onset prior to age 25, which reinforces the importance of targeting prevention and early intervention efforts at young people. The primary focus of ReachOut.com is prevention and early-intervention of depression, anxiety and substance use disorders - as these are both highly prevalent in the population and typically have their onset during adolescence and early adulthood. Available evidence also demonstrates that e-mental health services are effective for these groups of people and those experiencing psychological distress.

For young people experiencing prolonged mental illness the program includes a focus on providing information and refer young people to other services for mood disorders that become severe and require professional treatment, suicide and crisis intervention, psychotic disorders and eating disorders.

A secondary focus is to build the overall wellbeing of young people, targeting protective factors and life skills that are known to build coping skills, resilience and problem solving behaviour.

 

ReachOut.com’s definition of mental health

We want young people to be mentally healthy and resilient, extending beyond just the absence of disorders.

ReachOut.com adopts the World Health Organisation’s definition of ‘mental health’, which defines ‘mental health’ as a state of complete mental and social wellbeing where: “every individual realizes their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”. Implicit in this, is a dual focus on promoting wellbeing as well as preventing and reducing illness.

 

Help seeking

ReachOut.com aims to improve the help seeking behaviour of young people experiencing mental health difficulties.

ABS statistics indicate that up to 70% of young women and 80% of young men experiencing signs and symptoms of mental health disorders do not seek professional help3. ReachOut.com aims to boost help seeking behaviour by targeting key enabling factors for help seeking, as identified by Rickwood et al.4

Help-seeking logic diagram Rickwood et al.

 

Impact objectives

By delivering a youth mental health website that is relevant, engaging and trustworthy, ReachOut.com aims to deliver the following impacts on young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Universal audiences

For all young people, ReachOut.com aims to prevent mental health difficulties from occurring, and promotes improved wellbeing and quality of life.

Selective / indicated audiences

For young people at risk of developing a mental health difficulty, ReachOut.com aims to decrease their psychological distress and help them increase their resilience.

Early intervention

For young people experiencing early signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, ReachOut.com aims to intercept the progression of illness early on by facilitating access to appropriate support in order to decrease the severity of mental ill-health promote recovery and ultimately improve wellbeing and quality of life.

 

Program outputs

ReachOut.com’s impact objectives are achieved through engagement with a service that young people know and trust – using ReachOut.com’s quality content and tools to understand and work on their mental health and wellbeing. Key program activities include:

  • Fact sheets and personal stories
    that help young people to recognise emerging mental health difficulties or life stressors

  • Guides, tools and apps
    that enable young people to build skills and learn tactics that improve wellbeing and resilience

  • Forums
    that keep young people connected, supported, and enable them to learn from each other and from health professionals in a safe, moderated environment

  • Social media engagement
    that supports young people in sharing information and messages that promote wellbeing and mental health literacy

 

The statistics

We measure impact through our annual National Survey, which measures the use and impact of ReachOut.com on service users.

Key impacts identified from the 2012 National Survey include:

  • Most young people who reported visiting ReachOut.com during a 'tough time' said that it provided the information they needed (91%) and that it helped them deal with the issue they were experiencing (72%).
  • Of those experiencing high levels of distress, 60% reported that they had not sought help from professional services. Encouragingly, after using ReachOut.com 29% of this subsample said they were more likely to seek help from a medical doctor, and 41% said they were more likely to seek help from a counsellor, therapist or other mental health professional after visiting ReachOut.com.
  • 78% of young people said they would tell a friend going through a tough time about ReachOut.com.

The 2012 report is now available online. Download the report

 

References

  1. AIHW 2007, Young Australians: their health & wellbeing 2007, AIHW, Canberra.
  2. Slade et al. 2009, The Mental Health of Australians 2: Report on the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Department of Health and Ageing
  3. ABS (2008) National Survey of Mental Health & Wellbeing, 2007 Cat. No. 4326.0
  4. Rickwood D., Dean F. P., Wilson C. J., Ciarrochi, J. (2005). Young people's help-seeking for mental health problems. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, 4(3), Supplement. www.auseinet.com/journal/vol4iss3suppl/rickwood.pdf

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