StartOut announces handover partnership with headspace, directs funds and support to exciting new digital program qheadspace.

A message from the board of StartOut

For over 5 years StartOut has been a safe place for hundreds of young (and not-so-young) people to receive mentorship from our amazing StartOut Role Models via our digital platforms, as well as many tens of thousands more people we have interacted with at events all around the country and through our website and social media channels, however the challenges COVID has placed on our fundraising events and regional outreach plans has meant we have had to re-think how we move forward. While not the outcome we expected in early 2019 as we ramped up our efforts, the board have ultimately decided to wind down our own operations and are excited to redirect our efforts and funds and ‘hand over the torch’ so to speak, by supporting a fantastic new online program with a strong mental health focus and a far broader reach, in qheadspace, by headspace.

StartOut is a health promotion charity with a mandate to support groups at high risk of mental health issues, our focus being on supporting people of diverse sexuality and gender, who are still among the most impacted by poor mental health. When we first conceptualised StartOut there was nowhere online a young person could go to receive real support and quality advice that was free and focussed on early intervention where they could remain anonymous. Real role models were hard to find. Services were either in person or focussed on treatment of mental health issues rather than early intervention, and only really existed in major capital cities.

Since then, more organisations and charities are investing at digital solutions, and more mainstream mental health charities are including people of diverse sex, sexuality, and gender as an important focus area of their broader strategies.

Through our research we identified a number of fantastic programs underway, some of which we’ve listed below, and through this process we have ultimately decided to partner with headspace, to directly support one of their online communities; qheadspace. qheadspace was launched in 2019 to directly support sexually and gender diverse (DSG) young people and is a safe space for them to receive support and advice. The service is run by qualified peer moderators and mental health clinicians, and ultimately a very close fit to what we envisaged at the very beginning of the StartOut journey.

Steven Leicester, Head of Digital Mental Health Programs at headspace says “whilst it is sad to see StartOut Australia closing their doors, headspace is excited to be able to honour the legacy of such a fantastic organisation, and continue to support the mental health and wellbeing of young LGBTIQA+ and DSG young people. We are so grateful for the additional support”.

As headspace’s Online Communities are funded solely by private donations, fundraising and philanthropy, this partnership means qheadspace will be able to continue to run more programs and further support our community. StartOut will direct our remaining funds to support this great program and will recommend qheadspace as a place for our community and our fantastic volunteers to seek support.

The program runs regular online group chat sessions, with qualified peer moderators and is overseen by mental health clinicians, and can feed into 1 on 1 counselling services through eheadspace, . Examples of support provided by qheadspace can be on anything and can support on things ranging from navigating relationships, to dealing with family conflict, to how to be a trans ally and more. Over 250 young DSG people each month already find a supportive community in qheadspeace and we are excited to see the program flourish and reach even more people.

qheadspace chats take place every Tuesday at 6:15pm (AEST), and all transcripts are available after the session. You can find out more about qheadspace here: https://headspace.org.au/eheadspace/spaces/community/372936/

For those interested in other volunteering or donation opportunities, some fantastic initiatives and organisations we can highly recommend include:

    * The Pinnacle Foundation – is always looking for mentors to volunteer in supporting their scholarship recipients

    * Minus 18 – run fantastic events and programs and are launching a new leadership program for 16-25 year old’s.

    * BlackDog Institute – the team at BDI are partnering with LGBT charities to help embed their suicide prevention research and tools in other organisations.

    * Spectrum App – Check out the safe spaces near by downloading the app!

Any for many many more great organisations please check out GiveOutDay and a give generously to a great list of organisations doing amazing things in our community.

Any enquiries can be directed to [email protected]