The NextStep for young people’s mental health

| February 29, 2016
ReachOut NextStep

Finding mental health help can be overwhelming and confusing for young people. ReachOut NextStep is a new online tool stepping young people through the process of seeking tailored support. Associate Professor Jane Burns, CEO of the Young and Well CRC, explains.

In Australia, one in four young people experience a mental health disorder, and 75 percent of those aged 16 to 24 do not seek help. Yet this is the most pivotal time for people to seek help to ensure early intervention, as 75 percent of mental illnesses emerge before the age of 25.

A new tool created by ReachOut Australia in partnership with the University of Melbourne and the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre is set to make the process of seeking help a lot easier for our young people.

ReachOut NextStep is an Australian first online tool that quickly and simply steps young people through the process of seeking tailored mental health support. By selecting symptoms that apply to them, rating their severity, and entering location information, the young person is directed to the best support for their needs – whether that be via toolkits for self-care, access to an online chat support service, or a referral to a face-to-face or emergency telephone service.

When we spoke to Young and Well CRC Youth Brains Trust member Kelly Deane, aged 21, about the new tool, her powerful response cemented the importance and need for NextStep:

“Trying to find answers and help for the problems you are facing can be overwhelming, especially online. Resources can be found at the touch of a button, but often they aren’t the right fit for your unique situation, which can result in increased feelings of isolation and a sense that ‘there’s nothing that can help me’. I feel that this new tool will really help to whittle down at all of these options available in the world of mental health, and isolate those that are most suitable for me, and therefore most likely to give me the results I’m looking for.

“Finding mental health help online is often confusing when you’ve already got enough on your plate – which I know firsthand after trying to find help for myself and my friends who have experienced mental illness. With ReachOut NextStep, all the research has been done for you. All you need to focus on is getting better.”

With 110,000 Australians accessing each month, there is no doubt about the impact a tool like ReachOut NextStep can have. Young people shouldn’t have to suffer because of the fragmented, confusing mental health system, yet they are the ones bearing the brunt of it. We must do everything we can to improve this situation to ensure that young people feel more inclined to reach out for support when they need it and confident that they will receive the level of care they need.

As a white-labelled product, NextStep can be adapted and integrated into other online platforms used by young people, such as university and school intranets, social media websites, and other service providers such as the Butterfly Foundation, headspace and Lifeline, who contributed to the development process. It will also be an important component of Synergy, our multi-million dollar pilot project that will fundamentally reshape the system of care and embed technology in Australia’s youth mental health services, with young people at the centre.

It is through new technologies—which will bring the mental health care system into the 21st century—that we will be able to have the most impact in encouraging young people to seek help and provide a seamless continuum of support across both online and offline services.

To access the tool visit

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  1. chcope

    March 3, 2016 at 7:50 am


    This is informative, thanks.