ReachOut’s COVID-19 research and service response won the NSW Youth Work award for outstanding use of data and evaluation.
ReachOut team’s research focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people and their parents across Australia. It included focus groups with young people and parents, desktop research, data analysis of traffic to ReachOut.com, and ongoing sentiment analysis of ReachOut’s peer support community.
Research findings underpinned the development of new content and resources to help young people and their parents to be well and stay well during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Dedicated COVID-19 content across ReachOut’s youth, parents and schools sites.
- COVID-19 study support hub for young people, information for parents on how to support their teens, and information for schools.
- Dedicated resources for teachers via ReachOut Schools, including online learning activities, teacher self-care and advice for connecting with students in the remote classroom.
- Peer support ReachOut’s youth peer support forums experienced a surge in engagement, with many young people expressing high levels of distress as they grappled with the impact that COVID-19 was having on their lives and their mental health. ReachOut’s team encouraged helpseeking, facilitated conversations specifically about COVID-19, and provided much-needed short breaks from stress through targeted distractions, including games and memes. Additionally, our team of peer moderators initiated 456 duty-of-care escalations across the ReachOut Forums, ensuring that young people were connected with information about accessing further support whenever they needed it.
LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE
- A significant proportion of young people will not seek help from traditional counselling services for a mental health issue. Mental health programs and funding also need to be available and accessible to the hidden majority of young people who aren’t in queues or on waitlists.
- Survey data shows that the majority of young people will turn to parents and carers, friends and online for support for their psychological wellbeing.
- We can’t wait until young people’s mental health problems become critical. Prevention and early intervention strategies are vital so that young people can take steps to proactively manage their own mental health and become more aware of when they need to seek help and how to do so.
- For services to be most effective for young people, they need to be accessible, reflect what they think and feel, and be co-designed by young people in order to meet their service needs and preferences.
- Young people value support from their peers, including through active discussion and hearing others’ stories of their experiences. Investment in, and development of, peer support models offers significant potential to improve outcomes for young people via a method that strongly aligns to their service preferences.