ReachOut PeerChat

Creating a youth mental health service for vulnerable communities.

ReachOut PeerChat Chat screen | Deepend

The mental health and wellbeing of young people is a major public health concern. Almost 40% of 16–24 years old experience a mental health disorder over a 12-month period. Although they have higher prevalence rates than the general population, more than a million young people with a mental health difficulty are not seeking professional support.

There are numerous systemic barriers for young people seeking professional support. There’s an urgent need for early intervention, youth-centred services that respond to the increasing – and varying – pressures that young people today experience. We need new support models addressing young people’s needs and desirable futures.

Our research revealed young people needed accessible, non-clinical, and personal support. Working hand in hand with the ReachOut strategic design team we augmented an existing program of work to support the research, evaluation, design and build of the Peer-2-Peer communication channel as part of RO’s new business strategy - creating a more relevant and useful service to young people in need of support.

“It was cool because I felt I was in control. We talked about ways that I could manage some of my feelings, and my peer worker shared what had worked for them in the past. It was such a good place to start for me so I could look out for myself better.”

Anonymous - PeerChat participant, 19

As part of this program, we first ran seven weeks of ‘sprints’ to explore this such as prototypes around communication platform choices, through to games and art interventions that would help engage. With the use of an online self-reflection experiment, we found young people simply wanted someone to listen and validate their struggles. One-on-one online chat with a trained peer emerged as their preferred method.

The design decisions were co-produced with a community of young people, peer workers, and clinical psychologists. ‘Sprinting’ through complexity was exhausting, we moved to a more sustainable agile process, developing the service and workforce model for several months before launching.

 

Tackling Complexity with Immersive Data Sprints and Agile Development for Inclusive, Collaborative Solutions.

ReachOut PeerChat prototype screens | Deepend

Deep Service Design Thinking

Every aspect of the peer workforce was co-created with peer-workers, industry experts, and clinical psychologists.

ReachOut PeerChat app screens | Deepend

Onboarding Interventions 

Onboarding calming interventions like music and a guided breathing exercise help to reduce anxiety caused by anticipation.

ReachOut PeerChat Chat screen | Deepend

User-controlled Experience Design

Young people can control the pace of the conversation with an innovative ‘thinking time’ button, reducing any pressure to respond quickly.

Empowering Young People to Drive Change through Co-Designed, MVP-Based Online Text Chat.

ReachOut PeerChat prototype screens | Deepend

Moving to Pilot 

After using various technical prototypes to stand up the service concept, the project was then moved to a full technical build phase and integrated into the ReachOut technical platform. 

Person texting on a phone

Enhancing Privacy and Support through Reflective Technology

The texting format is fundamentally anonymous and reflective, increasing accessibility and ease for sharing sensitive topics.

Person texting on a phone

Supportive messaging, coupled with automatically generated or user-chosen anonymous usernames, ensures young people feel safe and maintain their privacy.

Tackling Complexity with Immersive Data Sprints and Agile Development for Inclusive, Collaborative Solutions.

Person using phone

Customer immersion

We ran seven weeks of ‘sprints’ to explore support prototypes ranging from games to art interventions. 

Two people hugging

Deep Customer insights

Through an online self-reflection experiment, we found young people simply wanted someone to listen and validate their struggles.

People collaborating

Sprints Vs Agile

‘Sprinting’ through complexity was exhausting, we moved to a more sustainable agile process, developing the service and workforce model for several months before launching.

Result Listing

73% rated improvement in wellbeing

In the first six months: Over 1,000 chats with young people, showing a 73% improvement in wellbeing and an 8.2/10 service rating.

PeerChat helps hundreds of young Australians each year to overcome systemic mental health support barriers when they need it most.

PeerChat can reduce distress, increase mental health knowledge, and positively influence the way young people feel about themselves and others. It enhances the wellbeing of young people through connection, understanding, and hope. Its digital, anonymous, and one-on-one nature improves accessibility for our most vulnerable communities. Importantly, it’s an exemplar for the value of people with lived experience to co-produce and deliver safe services that are highly personal while being relevant and inclusive for the diverse nature of humanity.

Awards Listing

Good Design Awards

Service Design

Gold

Good Design Awards

Social Impact

Winner

Good Design Awards

Digital Design Apps & Software

Winner

Designers Australia Awards

Service Design

Category Winner

Designers Australia Awards

NSW State / Interact

Award of Merit

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Chris Crammond

Managing Partner

Chris.Crammond@deepend.com.au 02 8917 7900
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Matt Griffin

Chief Executive

matt.griffin@deepend.com.au 02 8917 7900