This article lists various not-for-profit organisations working toward better mental health outcomes for Australians through research, programs and services for those experiencing or at risk of mental ill-health. These range from widescale assistance to specific support for groups including boys and men, young people, those in early childhood, parents, Indigenous people, LGBTIQ+ individuals, those living in rural and regional communities, and the ageing.
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While the entities listed below are all known to APS, we do not conduct a detailed analysis of their financial position and governance ahead of their inclusion. This is not an exhaustive list of the many not-for-profit organisations working in this space.
Beyond Blue works to reduce the impact of anxiety, depression and suicide in Australia through the provision of information and support online and via dedicated programs for families, schools, workplaces and community organisations. Apart from support and services, the organisation attempts to tackle the stigma associated with mental ill-health that can reduce or prevent help-seeking, and undertakes advocacy for consumers and those with lived experience of anxiety, depression and suicide risk. Beyond Blue also provides education to the aged care and childcare sectors on detecting symptoms of mental health issues and increasing resilience among older people and children aged 0-12, as well as providing a website for families, healthyfamilies.org.au.
This is a large entity that is in a unique position to draw together multiple players and resources at a national scale, with industry credibility as reliable project managers and political clout to be able to effect change at the system level.
Butterfly Foundation is the national charity for all Australians impacted by eating disorders and body image issues, and for the families, friends and communities who support them. Butterfly provides evidence-based support services, treatment and resources, delivering prevention and early intervention programs and advocating for the needs of the community.
Wandi Nerida, owned and operated by the Butterfly Foundation, is Australia’s first residential recovery centre for people affected by an eating disorder. It is 100% owned and operated by the Butterfly Foundation. It provides a safe, nurturing and healing environment for those most in need, delivering concentrated, person-centred treatment.
Wandi Nerida is bridge between hospital admission and outpatient care to provide an opportunity for a more intensive psychological recovery, finding the ‘healthy self’ amidst the eating disorder.
Mental Health Legal Centre
The Mental Health Legal Centre (MHLC) provides a free and confidential legal service to anyone who has experienced mental illness in Victoria where their legal problem relates to their mental illness. MHLC is a multi-disciplinary legal service, research, and advocacy organisation providing legal advice, representation and other services to Victorians experiencing mental health issues.
SANE Australia has almost thirty years of experience in improving mental health services for, and attitudes towards, people affected by mental illness. It delivers a range of services including peer-to-peer online forums (which SANE moderates on behalf of 70+ organisations), StigmaWatch (a Helpline providing advice and referrals), a Mindful Employer program, the Anne Deveson Research Centre, and a lived experiences speakers program. The organisation specialises in supporting those with more complex mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar and borderline personality disorder.
SANE has recently merged with the DAX Centre, acquiring a collection of artworks by people affected by a mental illness.
Waves of Wellness
Waves of Wellness believes dealing with mental health is not just about dealing with crisis, it’s also about finding healthy outlets for people who are struggling, recovering, and doing fine. They focus on breaking down the barriers and stigma that prevent people from being well. Their surf therapy programs provide people with the skills to manage their own mental health and wellbeing whether they are currently experiencing mental illness or looking to build resilience, social connection and their own value.
Boys and men
The Man Cave
The key focus of this charity is creating long-term sustainable behaviour change in young men and their communities. The entity offers two programs, an introductory school-based program, as well as a ‘Journey to Manhood’ program which require a deep level of engagement and commitment from everyone involved (four workshops a year plus online resources). Over the past six years, The Man Cave has worked in communities across Australia, impacting more than 15,000 boys, parents and teachers through their evidence-based curriculum focused on self, relationships, community and social action.
Top Blokes Foundation
Top Blokes Foundation is on a mission to improve young male health and wellbeing. They deliver delivered social education and mentoring programs with groups of boys and young men over three to six months to increase their resilience, empathy, and respect for self and others, and in doing so work to reduce the rates of suicides, mental health issues, antisocial and risk-taking behaviours.
Gotcha 4 Life Foundation
Gotcha 4 Life promotes a concept of healthy masculinity, giving men and boys the tools to start meaningful conversations by developing better social and emotional connections with their mates, families and community. It funds workshops and training programs and products to build mental fitness and resilience in communities across Australia. Delivery partners include WEAVE Youth and Community Services in Sydney, Rural Outreach Counselling in the Riverina region, NSW and Tomorrow Man, delivering workshops in sporting clubs, schools and communities across NSW, WA, SA and QLD.
BackTrack helps young people aged 12 and 19 years who are having a hard time, get back on track. The young people supported by BackTrack’s programs have multiple and complex life challenges, are falling through the cracks of society and are at risk of contact with juvenile justice. The organisation focuses on reconnecting young people with education and training, becoming work-ready and securing meaningful employment. Backtrack’s programs have an 87% success rate in developing positive life pathways and full participation in communities. The organisation’s flagship program is PawsUp, which is supported by other program components including the more recent establishment of a social enterprise, BT Works, for participants who have progressed through the core BackTrack program. BT Works manages all aspects of small to medium scale contracts in the primary industries, general construction and fabrication sectors, offering sub-contracting and labour hire services to Councils, local farmers, organisations and businesses within the New England region and beyond.
batyr is a ‘for purpose’ preventative mental health organisation, created and driven by young people, for young people. batyr delivers innovative peer-to-peer programs in schools and universities that engage, educate and empower young people, giving them the knowledge and skills to lead mentally healthy lives and reach their potential. batyr provide a voice to the ‘elephant in the room’ – mental health – through the power of lived experience story sharing. batyr’s vision is that all young people are engaged in positive conversations about mental health and empowered to reach out for support when needed.
By addressing mental ill-health issues in adolescence and early adulthood, batyr reduces stigma, encourages help-seeking and improves pathways to care. This has the potential to improve life situations as well as long-term outcomes in health and wellbeing, education, social participation and employment.
Human Nature Adventure Therapy
Based in Mullumbimby, NSW, Human Nature Adventure Therapy (HNAT) works with at-risk young people aged 14-19 years old from Northern NSW and Southern QLD regions who experience unresolved trauma, mental illness at the earliest stages, family violence, abuse, suicidality, self-harm, addiction and/or disengagement from family, school and/or Mental Health Services. These young people at risk of spiralling down dramatic pathways take part in a 4-month journey supported by a team of psychologists, outdoor educators and youth workers to heal, recover, create new goals and develop strategies to attain them. At the heart of this journey is a challenging and supportive wilderness expedition.
Kids Helpline (Yourtown)
Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25. Since 1991, Kids Helpline’s specialised counsellors have responded to over 8 million contacts, offering practical help and emotional support to children and young people at critical moments in their lives. In 2017, Kids Helpline counsellors answered 157,000 calls, three quarters of which were from females. Demand was much higher, however, with every second call to Kids Helpline going unanswered. One of the organisation’s strategic goals for 2022 is to double the number of calls Kids Helpline answers and to target the service reach, particularly for communities identified as high need – e.g. 28% of all calls come from regional and remote Australia. Since 2013, the number of duty of care interventions due to concerns about risk of suicide and child abuse have gone up by 40%, highlighting the importance of the Kids Helpline service to ensure that children and young people in crisis can get the help they need.
In addition to Kids Helpline, yourtown runs programs in NSW, VIC, SA, QLD and TAS to tackle some of the factors informing youth at-risk, including mental health, homelessness, education, and youth unemployment (including a specific program for Indigenous young people). A parent support line is also operated in NT and QLD, and a domestic violence shelter is operated at an undisclosed location.
Life Education Australia
Life Education Australia runs empowering programs across primary and secondary schools to promote students’ physical, social and emotional health and wellbeing. With their iconic mascot, Healthy Harold, and their mobile learning centres, they provide in-school learning for all children. Their programs cover a wide range of age-appropriate topics including nutrition, physical activity, online safety, bullying, consent, peer pressure, alcohol, drugs and safety.
Lifeline Australia (text service)
Lifeline Australia is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing emotional distress with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. As well as their traditional phone counselling service, they operate a text service (0477 13 11 14) where counsellors will conduct a text conversation with an individual. This service is particularly popular amongst teens and consent is one of many issues that comes up.
One Eighty Avalon
One Eighty was created in March 2017 in response to a number of youth suicides on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. It is led by a group of young adults who want to encourage community connections and conversations in order to prevent youth suicide. The organisation currently funds workshops delivered by Tomorrow Man / Tomorrow Woman as well as Lifeline Accidental Counsellor and Mental Health First Aid training. It also holds social events and classes and trains young people to be facilitators of ‘Open Up’ sessions, where young adults (under 30) get together to talk about all kinds of ‘stuff’.
Extensive research shows that mentoring is an effective way to support young people to build resilience, set and achieve goals, learn to cope with challenges, and ask for help when they need it. That’s why the Raise Foundation has been delivering in-school mentoring for the past 10 years, using volunteer mentors from the community who they train, certify and supervise with a qualified counsellor. They are now looking to grow their current 1,000+ mentor-mentee relationships per year to reach every year eight student in public schools across Australia over the next few years. An ambitious goal they say is required to curb the increase of self-harming observed in young people.
The Reach Foundation (Reach) is a youth organisation established by AFL Brownlow Medalist, 2010 Melbournian of the Year Jim Stynes OAM and film director Paul Currie, prompted by the desire to inspire every young person to believe in themselves and get the most out of life. Now, 25 years on, REACH has delivered thousands of mental health and resilience workshops – designed and delivered exclusively by young people – for anyone aged from 10 to 18, predominantly delivered in schools. As well as running all of their workshops, young people are involved in ongoing training and development as well as leadership of the Foundation.
ReachOut was the world’s first online youth mental health support website, launched in 1998. It is a great first entry point for young people who are seeking answers to mental health and everyday concerns. It normalises their experience through digital content and peer support, providing an opportunity to explore issues (possibly for the first time) in an anonymous, online space that’s available 24/7. All content and services it creates are based on the latest evidence and co-designed by mental health experts, young people and/or their parents. ReachOut aims to support all young people – regardless of their mental health status – to increase resilience and coping skills; young people in need of help. It also runs programs for parents and professionals who work with young people.
Schools Plus is a national not-for-profit that helps children facing disadvantage succeed at school. They do this by empowering teachers in disadvantaged communities with funding, coaching and resources to create lasting change in their schools. Their initiatives are teacher-led and tailored to best meet the needs of students in their specific school. Student mental health and wellbeing (including resilience) is the number one issue identified by schools and has even greater impacts on disadvantaged children and Australian Schools Plus studies. It is estimated that poor mental wellbeing accounts for 10% -25% of the education gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children. The Australian Schools Plus application process (where schools submit their projects of greatest need) opens in July and they expect wellbeing and resilience projects to again be a high priority within disadvantaged schools.
Smiling Mind’s vision is to help every mind thrive. They deliver the Smiling Mind Education Program into 470 NSW schools and have a high level of demand for additional schools. The program has 4 key components; Professional development for educators; student workshops; classroom resources; free mindfulness app. Highly valued by teachers, the program has been proven to have multiple benefits for students including increased mental wellbeing; greater concentration and focus, improved academic performance, clear strategies for emotional regulation, better relationships and improved resilience.
The Project Rockit Foundation (TPRF)
In 2006, sisters Rosie and Lucy Thomas launched a community project to tackle bullying by delivering strengths-based workshops by young people, for young people, in schools. What started small has since grown into Project Rockit – a sustainable social enterprise that has now reached over half a million young Australians. Founded in 2021 off the back of the success of Project Rockit, TPRF is a not-for-profit dedicated to the prevention of (cyber)bullying, hate and prejudice in partnership with the existing social enterprise. Their aim is to provide programs, resources and education to schools in low socioeconomic status and remote areas.
Established in 1995, Youth Focus provides mental health services to at-risk young people aged 12-25 living in WA. Youth Focus works with young people to help them overcome issues associated with depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts through the provision of professional, evidence-based face-to-face individual and family counselling and other mental health services.
KidsXpress provides trauma-focused programs to help children, caregivers and professionals transform the impact of childhood trauma into a life full of hope and a future our children deserve. It was established in 2005 to address the lack of services available to support children living with the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – childhood traumas such as emotional or physical abuse, neglect, and household substance abuse – all of which are experiences known to have a huge impact on a child’s life trajectory. Through the delivery of trauma-focused therapy and education, KidsXpress provides mental health support for children aged four onwards.
Gidget Foundation Australia
Gidget Foundation Australia raises awareness of perinatal depression and anxiety and supports the emotional wellbeing of expectant and new parents to ensure that those in need receive timely, appropriate and supportive care.
Happy Paws, Happy Hearts (HPHH)
This charity connects disengaged or vulnerable Australians (including older Australians, people with mental and/or physical disabilities and veterans) with animals requiring care as they await adoption. HPHH offers animal care, handling and training programs designed to give participants a rewarding personal development experience as they nurture and care for shelter animals. HPHH programs include their disability program (NDIS-approved), its aged care animal-assisted therapy program delivered in conjunction with the RSPCA, as well as a social connection and recovery program for ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members. While there are numerous therapeutic animal programs in Australia, a major differentiator of this program is its focus on purpose and community re-engagement – i.e. engaging the socially isolated in care, training and then volunteering with animal care, rather than simply facilitated exposure to animals. The shared value proposition of HPHH is unique in reconnecting and empowering socially isolated participants while simultaneously delivering high-quality trained volunteers to the RSPCA and the animals it supports.
Weave Youth and Community Services
Weave is a non-profit community organisation based in Woolloomoolloo, Sydney, that has been working with children, young people, women, families and communities facing complex social situations for over 40 years. It runs a variety of programs, including Light Up, a youth resilience program for young people in years 5 to 12. The workshops are designed to empower and build resilience in young people to reduce the impacts of mental health issues and youth suicide rates by helping participants navigate the challenges that life throws at them. The Kool Kids Club is an early intervention and prevention program providing children aged 7-13 years, with opportunities to engage in recreational activities and mentoring (Maroubra / La Perouse).
Culture is Life
This organisation supports and promotes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led solutions to prevent youth suicide, with a deep emphasis on strengthening connection to culture and country. This approach recognises that experiences of racism and intergenerational trauma are significant risk factors for the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. In Australia, suicide remains a leading cause of death for young people and the suicide rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remains unacceptably high at more than double the national suicide rate. Drawing on a growing body of international evidence demonstrating the role of cultural strengthening as a key protective factor for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, Culture is Life builds awareness and influences public debate to strengthen support and funding for culturally safe initiatives in regional and remote Australia.
The Pinnacle Foundation
This organisation provides educational and vocational support to young adults across Australia where their gender identity, sexual orientation or sexual characteristics have prevented or hindered achievement of their career aspirations or personal development. Its vision is to empower young LGBTIQ+ Australians to achieve their full potential, thus transforming Australian society for the better. It offers multi-year scholarships nationally to students aged between 17 and 26 to study at public higher education institutions in Australia, to achieve educational or vocational qualifications in any profession, trade or the arts. Scholarships may also be awarded to complete year 12 schooling. Importantly, scholars are matched with mentors who share the same academic and professional interests, gender identity, sexual orientation or sexual characteristics. In recipient reporting, 95% of scholarship alumni say the Pinnacle program helped them academically and improved their confidence, while 93% now feel more valued as a person.
Brain and Mind Centre, University of Sydney
The Brain and Mind Centre (BMC) is a research centre of the University of Sydney which develops novel clinical, online and treatment programs for young people with emerging anxiety and depressive disorders, in partnership with local, national and international providers and leaders in youth mental health and online technologies. Other areas of focus are early childhood development and ageing. This is a well-regarded research institute operating under excellent leadership, which continues to contribute to policy change, advocacy and public knowledge about mental health.
Black Dog Institute
The Black Dog Institute aims to enable healthier lives through innovations in science, education, medicine, public policy and knowledge transfer, by delivering quality research, clinical expertise, and education programs in schools, workplaces and the broader community. It specialises in mental health research across three core areas – youth and adolescents, suicide prevention and eMental Health – and is located within the Prince of Wales Hospital Campus, affiliated with the University of NSW. This successful research institute has a solid reputation for evidence-based tools and models.
Established in 2002, Orygen is a pioneering organisation that continues to drive change in youth mental health on a national and international level, with a special interest in early psychosis and eHealth. It works in the areas of research, policy development and innovative clinical service design. The organisation also provides evidence-based training and education to help drive ongoing improvements in the treatments and care provided to young people experiencing mental ill-health. Orygen’s CEO Pat McGorry was instrumental in the establishment of the national network of headspace centres for young people.
Australian National University
The ANU is working with the ACT Government Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing to undertake the Personality & Total Health (PATH) Through Life project. This is a large and ongoing, population-based, longitudinal cohort study comprising approximately 7500 participants ranging from early to late adulthood. The project aims to track and define the lifespan course of depression, anxiety, substance use and cognitive ability, to identify environmental risk and protective factors within these domains, and examine the relationships between depression, anxiety and substance use with cognitive ability and dementia. A client of APS works for the ACT Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing and can explain more about the project.
Rural and regional
Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR)
FRRR’s vision is a vibrant, resilient and revitalised remote, rural and regional Australia. To achieve this vision, FRRR provides funding and capacity-building support at the hyper-local level. Mental wellbeing is a particularly heightened issue within rural and regional communities and a focus of many grants made within the FRRR programs. One such program is ‘In a Good Place’, which provides support for community-driven initiatives that reduce social isolation, increase social participation and connectedness, and encourage people in remote, rural and regional communities who are at risk of, or are experiencing, mental health issues to seek help. Many of the past grants have been aligned with school support or have been school-based initiatives.
Rural Outreach Counselling
Rural Outreach Counselling (ROC) was set up in 2017 to reduce suicide and the impact of depression and anxiety in rural families and communities throughout regional Australia, reaching out to those who can’t, or won’t, present to a General Practitioner (GP) or existing mental health services. Currently focusing on south-eastern New South Wales (Riverina), with an office in Wagga Wagga. Services are delivered by accredited counsellors and supported by active community members, or “MateKeepers” who have undergone training workshops and discussion groups initiated by ROC.
This organisation raises awareness about mental health issues in the Riverina and encourages people to get help and support. It does not offer counselling or referral services.
Last updated 17 October 2022