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Jono Nicholas: “The way the services are structured makes it hard to get the right help.”

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Jono Nicholas grew up with a Psychologist as a father and knew the importance of mental health. Nicholas made it his mission to improve the mental health of Australian youth.

ReachOut was established in 1997 and Nicholas started his involvement with ReachOut as a young Uni student.

Before becoming the CEO of ReachOut Australia, Nicholas was the Founding CEO of ReachOut Ireland.

“We are an unusual organisation in the sense that we have taken our organisation overseas. There was an opportunity to come back and be CEO of ReachOut Australia and I was fortunate enough to do that,” said Nicholas.

Third Sector spoke to Nicholas about disruptive technology, mental health and new initiatives for ReachOut. 

TS: You are speaking about disruptive technology at our upcoming conference. What is unique about the way you use technology for ReachOut?

JN: Technology is critical to mental health. One of the challenges we have is that there is a huge need to help those who are depressed and suicidal. The way the services are structured it is actually quite hard to get the right help. What is unique is the technology that we have pioneered in the past five years. [We want to use] technology to massively scale the number of people to get the right help at the right time. Technology plays a massive role in that.

One in six young Australians will experience an anxiety disorder in any 12 month period.  What does ReachOut Australia do to help lessen this statistic?

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health difficulties. What we have done through our new mobile phone app is provide 24/7 help. If we can get them to have this help on their phone to access at anytime, we feel like we are [helping to lessen this statistic.]

Do you think the Australian Government could improve more on their response to youth with mental illness?

Absolutely they can improve. We have been through a reform process and it is now up to the mental health sector to implement those reforms. I think if we can have an innovation agenda in mental health and implement technology as part of the cause then we can [improve together with the government.]

What initiatives are you working on at the moment?

One exciting initiative that we are about to launch is ReachOut Parents, a new service specifically for teenagers and parents having a tough time. The reason that we did this, and we did this in partnership with The Benevolent Society, is because when one person goes through a tough time they turn to the ones they love the most. Through our core ReachOut service we have been able to help out young people directly and their friends and family. What we now know is that parents themselves also want to turn to an Australian evidence-based service. This is a really exciting initiative and highly necessary.

Where do you see ReachOut in the next year?

I think the biggest and ongoing opportunity is to help young people. We are expecting to help tens of thousands of youth as well as tens of thousands of parents. In the longer term we know that mental health is going to be the number one challenge globally. We see a great opportunity to share our knowledge and expertise. We want to use this platform to help not only Australians but people from all over the world.

Hear Jono Nicholas speak at Third Sector’s conference taking place on the 18th and 19th of August.  https://thirdsectorexpo.com/.

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