Where ReachOut USA Began
In 1992, ReachOut founder Jack Heath lost his cousin by suicide. As he grieved and reflected on the growing suicide rates in Australia, an idea was sparked that would transform the way young people found help, by harnessing the power of the internet.
The Inspire Foundation, now known as ReachOut Australia, was established in 1997 and became the world’s first online mental health service for young people, au.ReachOut.com,
Nearly a decade later, after contributing to a 56% reduction in youth suicide rates, Jack Heath considered whether the ReachOut model would work in the United States. In 2006, Jack partnered with The Bridgespan Group, a U.S.-based nonprofit strategic consulting firm, to find out. Their independent assessment found no comparable service in the United States – despite the critical mental health needs of many young Americans and the staggering rates of depression and suicide.
Meeting Youth Where They Are
Launched in 2010, ReachOut.com was established as the primary online platform and avenue of outreach for the Inspire USA Foundation, now known as ReachOut USA. Driven by passionate youth volunteers and supported by mental health experts, ReachOut.com set out to provide a safe and accessible space for teens and young adults to find support and get critical questions answered via resources created by their peers. The Ad Council amplified this message by featuring ReachOut.com in the multi-year national "We Can Help Us” campaign across television, radio, print and interactive ads. ReachOut has also continually worked to meet the unique needs of marginalized youth through partnerships with organizations such as GSA Network and native youth advocate Sociometrics.
In May 2012, with funding from the California Mental Health Services Authority, ReachOut expanded and enhances its services with the launch of the ReachOut Forums. Guided by peer supporters and moderated by professionals, the ReachOut Forums are a safe, anonymous, peer-to-peer community designed for teens and young adults to discuss a range of social, health and mental health related issues. Along with providing a positive outlet for difficult feelings and a safe space to receive support, the forums are a great tool for helping to improve mental health, by reducing stigma and promoting health-seeking behavior.
October 2013 saw the launch of ReachOut TXT, a peer-to-peer mobile service funded by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) as part of their Stigma and Discrimination Reduction campaign. Each week, Bay Area local youth offered teens and young adults throughout the country confidential support and information through the powerful medium of text messages. During the grant period, ReachOut TXT provided over a year of service, with over 936 California participants and 4,078 national participants!
ReachOut Speakers Bureau
Moved by requests from schools and communities looking for youth to discuss mental health topics and break down the stigma in the youth population, in 2015 ReachOut partnered with CalMHSA to train a selection of passionate youth volunteers for the speakers bureau circuit in California. Over a six month period, members of our speakers bureau delivered compelling presentations for audiences at the San Mateo Youth Conference and the 7th International Together Against Stigma conference in San Francisco.
Continuing the Conversation
ReachOut USA is always seeking out new channels and partners to help combine our innovative interventions with the latest technologies and further the vital message that young people in need are not alone.