As some of you may know, I am a Youth Ambassador for ReachOut.com which is an initiative of the Inspire Foundation, a not for profit NGO that uses technology to help better the mental health of young people. Today I gave a speech to E&Y, one of the corporate supporters of Inspire, at their golf fundraiser day. There were about sixty people present, sixty of whom are accountants, advisory, businessy and tax people (clearly, I know nothing about the business and corporate wolrd) and whom I had never met before. This was my speech:
Thank you all for being involved in this fundraising day today and I hope you’ve all enjoyed yourselves. As you know, the money raised today will go towards ensuring that the Inspire Foundation can continue the work that it does and reach even more young people in the future.
Inspire combines the direct involvement of young people with technology to deliver online programs that help improve young people’s mental health and wellbeing. It does this through its programs, the main one being ReachOut.com. Reach Out is a web based service aimed at young people aged 14-25. The website offers a whole range of features, including fact sheets, personal stories written by young people, interactive forums and more. It tackles mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, as well as other youth issues such as relationships, exam stress and sexuality which also affect mental health.
One in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime, yet, only 29% of this one in four will receive professional help. When many feel as though they can’t turn to parents, friends, teachers or professionals such as GPs or counsellors, they turn online for help. This is where Reach Out comes in. It is there 24/7, it’s free, it’s anonymous which is what makes it so appealing for young people.
Speaking from personal experience, Reach Out has helped me immensely. I, like many other young people, was afraid to seek help for my mental health issues. I was afraid of the stigma associated with mental illness, I was afraid I’d be judged, I was afraid my issues weren’t serious enough to seek help for. Reach Out was my first point of contact. Through reading the factsheets, being inspired by the personal stories of young people and being encouraged by others brave enough to seek help, I too was eventually able to seek help for myself. Currently I’m still seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist and receiving treatment for my depression and social anxiety. Reach Out has definitely aided me in being able to make that step in reaching out for help. Because Reach Out has helped me I wanted to give something back and help other young people who may have been in a similar position as I. I applied and was accepted to become a Youth Ambassador which enables me to represent this organisation, promote it in the community and have a say in this service, so that even more young people like me are aware of Reach Out and are able to utilise this service. My Reach Out journey began as a young person seeking help, and I am now a young person who wants to help others.
So thank you all for your generous contribution. Every $11.50 raised today will help ensure one more young person has access to Inspire’s services for a whole year. If you’d like to find out more information about Inspire and its services, you can visit inspire.org.au or reachout.com. We look forward to continuing to work with you in the future. Your support ensures that Inspire can continue to achieve its mission of helping millions of young people lead happier lives.
I’m usually someone who avoids public speaking at all costs, so I’m quite proud of myself for being able to do that, considering one of the issues I struggle with is social anxiety. Proof that it is at least one aspect of my mental health issues that has improved somewhat? Revealing to sixty strangers that I have a mental illness and I see a psychologist and psychiatrist for it- that is quite an experience. I used to be so secretive about my mental health issues, not willing to admit it to anyone. It’s something of a comfort anyway, knowing that I will most likely never see any of them again.
Edit: I let my mother read my speech the next day… after reading it, she said nothing. Don’t know what I was hoping would happen, I’m not quite sure what my purpose was. Perhaps just to emphasise to her that I’m not ashamed I have a mental illness. Perhaps it is also my passive way of rebelling, because the impression I’m getting from my family is that mental illness is something to be ashamed of, something to be kept in the dark.