Greater online support for troubled youth

Christopher Talbot
(Australian Associated Press)

Ashleigh Holder intended to die but ended up in hospital. Recovery has been a long journey.

Ms Holder, now an ambassador for youth mental health project Reach Out, said she didn’t recognise she had a problem with anxiety back in 2011, and didn’t even know what anxiety was.

“Anxiety impacted my ability to attend uni, go to my part-time job and spend time with family and friends,” she said at the launch of the Reach Out mobile-first platform for youth mental health in Melbourne on Wednesday.

“This led me to make the conscious decision that my only option was to take my own life, and I was hospitalised.”

A team of doctors and mental health professionals helped her on the journey to recovery – but it was the times those experts weren’t available when she discovered Reach Out.

The website connects young people to free help and early intervention.

“Many young people experiencing a mental health issue have to wait before they can speak to professionals who play such a vital role in recovery,” Ms Holder said.

“I experienced such a sense of relief being able to access information and support at Reach Out.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who has spoken publicly about his family’s mental health struggles, praised Ms Holder for her courage in sharing her story.

He said youth mental health is top of the government’s agenda.

“I had a one-on-one dinner with the prime minister last week and one of the things we talked about, above all else, was youth mental health,” Mr Hunt said at the launch.

“Mr Turnbull is passionate about it, and if there’s one thing we can achieve on our watch in the health space, there is no thing more important than extending services and providing support.”

The new Reach Out site allows young people to check boxes about how they’re feeling – like angry or anxious – and it will tailor articles and videos specific to their needs.

They can also join a forum and chat to other young people.

The site is part funded by a Telstra shareholder donation program and the federal government, and is currently accessed by 1.58 million people each year.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.


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