20 years of Beyond Blue

In October 2020, Beyond Blue will have been serving the community in Australia for 20 years. Usually, an organisation’s anniversary is a time for reflection: a chance to look back on all that has been achieved and to acknowledge the incredible contribution people and organisations have made. 

Today, we are indeed grateful. 

Grateful for the people who recognised the need to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with depression. Grateful for those who drove the inception of Beyond Blue, and who continued to expand its remit to include anxiety and suicide prevention. Grateful for those who started to speak out with personal stories of hope, resilience and recovery, opening up a national conversation that continues so openly today. 

We do want to pause for a moment to thank those who have changed the conversation about mental health over the past 20 years. In Australia, 88 per cent of people now believe we should be more open to talking about mental health issues. Stigma and discrimination has decreased significantly in workplaces, schools and communities. Open conversations are happening, with people checking in on their friends and family, and those who are experiencing mental health concerns.

But there is still much to be done. And never more so than now. In 2020, our collective wellbeing as a nation has come into sharp focus, and as we look beyond 2020, the impacts of the pandemic will linger for several years. People are reaching out to us for support in record numbers.  

Almost 90 per cent of people in Australia know about Beyond Blue - and with that comes a great responsibility. About 13 million people reach out to us each year. We are often the first place that people go if they are struggling. We have become the big blue door into mental health services. 

One in six people is currently living with depression, anxiety, depression, or both. That’s more than three million people. Almost half of our population will experience mental health challenges at some point in their lifetime. Our suicide rate is more than double our road toll - every day, eight people take their own lives - and most of those are men. Sadly, suicide remains the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 44. 

Over our 20 years, we have grown in ambition and size, expanded our remit and become a recognised leader in the sector. In the early years, we were often reactive to government needs. Today, we have built credibility to proactively seek and 'fill the gaps' in community needs. 

In October 2020, our 20th anniversary, we say thank you. Let’s continue to work together harder than ever to ensure all people in Australia achieve their best possible mental health. 

Our journey with the community from 2000 to now

We want to take some time to reflect on the last 20 years of Beyond Blue. There were some significant milestones on our journey with the community that we want to share, amongst many more.

 

2000

It was a conversation with his daughter that sparked the inception of Beyond Blue for the Hon. Jeff Kennett AC. She had just experienced the loss of two friends, both young men who had died on the roads.

“We spoke about what could be done to lower death tolls on the roads," Mr Kennett said. "When we looked into the matter more closely we realised both men were emotionally depressed after breaking up with their partners and used their cars to take their lives.”

“This changed my approach entirely and I started trying to better understand suicide and what could be done in the community. Without my daughter asking that one simple question, Beyond Blue wouldn’t have been born.”

 

October 19, 2000: After receiving a positive reaction from state leaders, The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC secured funds for a mental health advocacy group and Beyond Blue: the national depression initiative was established with 9 board directors and 9 staff.

The vision: A society that understands and responds to the personal and social impact of depression, and works actively to prevent it and improve the quality of life of everyone affected by it. Along with this vision, the Board outlined 7 Principles for Action which are still relevant in our work today. You can read more about these in Beyond Blue's first ever Annual Report

In its very first year, the Beyond Blue website attracts 95,000 visits. 

                                     Feb 2001 board meeting_450x300

Inaugural Board members left to right, back row: Dr Paul Hemming AO, Prof Ian Hickie (CEO), Mr Garry McDonald AO, Prof Harvey Whiteford, Mr John McGrath AM. Left to right, front row: Ms Jenny Pickworth, The Hon Jeff Kennett AC, The Hon Caroline Hogg AO, Ms Gwen Wilcox

 

2001

National Postnatal Depression program is launched. Up to one in six women experience postnatal depression, which develops between one month and up to one year after the birth. Supporting new parents remains a strong focus for Beyond Blue today

 

2002

  • Started advocacy work to reduce insurance discrimination. You can read more about this program here including a landmark case with young Melbourne woman Elle Ingram and her successful claim against QBE.
  • Beyond Blue Victorian Centre of Excellence in Depression, Anxiety and Related Disorders (in partnership with the Victorian Government) launches. The initiative runs from 2002-2012 and encourages innovative, high-quality research that aims to enhance early intervention, treatment and pathways to quality care for depression, anxiety and related disorders. 130 projects worth over $14 million were funded during this period.

 

2003

Establishment of blueVoices, giving Australians experiencing depression and their loved ones a national voice. This body has been vital in contributing to the development and innovation of mental health services, policies and programs. Early blueVoices groups include beyondbabyblues, maturityblues and blueboffins.

“blueVoices will ensure that people with the lived experience of depression, anxiety and other related mental disorders are truly able to represent issues of importance at a national level on all relevant committees and governmental structures.” Bernard McNair, National Coordinator, blueVoices.

bluevoices national network

Blue Voices national consumer and carer network


 

 

2004

  • Beyond Blue commissioned the first Depression Monitor survey to provide a national snapshot of awareness, knowledge, attitudes and behaviour relating to depression in the Australian community. Anxiety was added a few years later and the Monitor collected data from 2004 to 2012, showing awareness and knowledge about depression and anxiety in the Australian community has improved over time.
  • Beyond Blue establishes its workplace mental health program.

 

 

2005

  • The first Beyond Blue Speakers and Ambassadors begin sharing their stories to smash the stigma and advocate for greater mental health awareness and literacy.
  • Awareness of Beyond Blue continues to grow nationally:
    • 62% of Australians recognise Beyond Blue
    • 750,000 visitors to the Beyond Bluewebsite
    • 700,000 Beyond Blue information materials distributed
    • 22 Beyond Blue staff members

 

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A Beyond Blue Speaker shares her story


2006

  • Beyond Blue becomes a men’s health partner of The Movember Foundation and a grateful recipient of Movember funds from 2006–2016. Seed funding from Movember establishes several innovative new products and services during this period, including NewAccess and the BeyondNow app, which Beyond Blue continues to invest in and grow today.
  • Community partnership formed with AFL club, Hawthorn, a partnership that sparked the annual Beyond Blue Cup and continues today. Today Beyond Blue has similar partnerships with other sporting codes including NRL's Wests Tigers and A-League's Sydney FC.
  • The Beyond Blue information line opens in July, providing access to depression and anxiety information and referral to services. Over 4,000 calls are received in the first three months.

 

 

2007

  • KidsMatter program begins. 100 primary schools participate in the initial 2-year trial promoting mental health in Australian primary school students. Following the success of the trial, a national initiative runs for many years.
  • The Mental Health Drought Initiative and campaign "Don't beat around the bush!" commences. From 2007 to 2009, this program was jointly funded by the Australian Government, Beyond Blue and Movember and was implemented in partnership with the Australian General Practice Network (AGPN). The initiative saw Beyond Blue provide training, capacity-building and resources via Centrelink Drought Assistance buses and throughout rural communities.
  • A volunteer peer educator project, Beyond Maturity Blues, is launched. The project is funded by Beyond Blue and implemented by the Council On The Ageing (COTA). Between 2007 and 2013, 5,060 peer education sessions were delivered to approximately 101,000 people. The free education session was aimed at increasing awareness of anxiety and depression and to empower older Australians to discuss anxiety and depression with their health professional.

 

2008

The first workshops of the National Workplace Program are delivered, providing onsite training and advice to employers and employees on making workplaces mentally friendly.

 

2010

The Shed Online (TSO) is launched. An online community which recreated the atmosphere of a ‘physical’ men’s shed, where men can feel confident to discuss and exchange information. Linkages to physical men’s sheds were created on TSO by enabling every men’s shed to have their own web page.

 

2011

  • Launch of the Older Person’s Awareness Campaign through television, radio, newspapers, convenience advertising and the dissemination of printed collateral at Seniors Week events. The campaign was repeated in 2012 and 2013.
  • Anxiety is added to Beyond Blue’s constitutional mission. Anxiety conditions are the most prevalent mental health conditions in Australia, twice as common as depression. On average, one in four people will experience anxiety at some stage in their life. Beyond Blue started its work to help people to know the signs and symptoms, and encourage them to seek support as soon as possible.
  • A new tagline, ‘Depression. Anxiety.’ was added to our logo to give more clarity to our work and address the addition of anxiety conditions to Beyond Blue’s mission.

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“I learnt that with anxiety, or with any mental health condition, there is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of. The perfect image you are trying so hard to hold on to and maintain stops you from seeing the imperfections in others. We are human, no one is perfect, we all have our battles. If you share your struggles with others, you may find your honesty brings out the compassion in others, that other people may have similar struggles too, that you can grow in your journey and help each other - and that is the magic of being imperfectly human together.” - Beyond Blue community member

 

2012

  • The Stop. Think. Respect (LGBTI) campaign launches nationally to bring to light the discrimination faced by LGBTI people and the impact that has on their mental health. The campaign was developed with an LGBTI Reference Group of experts from blueVoices, clinical services, LGBTI health peak bodies and researchers, community groups and government agencies. 
  • Beyond Blue becomes more active in education settings, with the launch of KidsMatter Early Childhood, the growth of KidsMatter Primary, SenseAbility – a strengths-based resilience program for those working with young people aged 12-18 years, and The Desk, for university students. 
  • Doctors Mental Health Program commences. An initiative aimed at researching and addressing the prevalence of depression, anxiety and suicide among Australian medical students and doctors.

 

 

2013

  • National Anxiety Strategy is launched. 
  • NewAccess trial starts. Modelled on the successful UK program, Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, NewAccess is designed to provide affordable, early intervention psychological support for people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety that complements Medicare-subsidised services. Mental health coaches, with clinical supervision, work one on one with people face to face or by telehealth without the need for a referral. 
  • Online forum opens. A safe and moderated online peer support community where people learn from and support one another.
  • Redevelopment of MindMatters by Beyond Blue. A mental health initiative for secondary schools that aims to work with educators to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people.
  • Results of a world-first National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students released to drive action to reduce the high rates of reported poor mental and suicide risk in the medical profession.
  • Beyond Blue launches Man Therapy. Funded through the Federal Government’s Taking Action To Tackle Suicide initiative, over its first twelve months the campaign reached 43% of Australian men. For those who visited the website, 80% found the information useful to them personally and 55% felt the information on the website was new to them. More than one-third went on to speak to a family member or mate about how they were doing. 
  • Beyond Blue recognises that, with awareness at record levels, people need more than its Information Line. The Beyond Blue Support Service is launched, providing free and confidential professional counselling, advice and referrals. The service is funded by donations to Beyond Blue.
                                        

 

2014

  • The Way Back Support Service is piloted in Darwin. The service supports people in the community after a suicide attempt.
  • HeadsUp is launched. HeadsUp provides practical advice, tools and strategies to all businesses big and small to help them build mentally healthy workplaces, supported by a small national engagement team and research.
  • Beyond Blue joins the Close the Gap campaign Steering Committee, working alongside Australia's peak Indigenous and non-Indigenous health bodies, NGOs and human rights organisations to achieve equality in health and life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • The Invisible Discriminator campaign, "Stop. Think. Respect" is launched, highlighting that subtle or 'casual' racism can be just as harmful as more obvious forms. The campaign highlights the impact of racism on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and encourages everyone in Australia to do something about it.
  • Beyond Blue's National Roadshow sets off around Australia. A big blue bus travelled 50,000 kilometres to hundreds of towns across Australia to bringing communities together at a grass roots level to connect and talk about anxiety, depression and suicide.
                                         

 

“I still remember the National Roadshow, being in Albany on ANZAC day was such an amazing day. People were so willing to come up and talk to us and tell us their stories. It really brought home the importance of it all. Everyone goes away feeling that they have done their small part in helping change the landscape of mental health in the community.” - Cheryl Geels, who worked with almost all of Beyond Blue’s CEOs over her 10 years as a staff member

 

2015

  • Suicide prevention is added to Beyond Blue's constitutional mission. Although Beyond Blue has always worked to prevent suicide, recognising this formally gave greater focus and attention to this important area.
  • BeyondNow app is launched. The app helps people make their own suicide safety plan to support them through times of suicidal crisis or thoughts and encourages them to share it with others. Having a digital safety plan on your phone means it's right there in people’s pockets when they need it.
  • Beyond Blue issues a statement in support of marriage equality. We did so because discrimination is unacceptable, and elevates the risk of mental health issues and suicide. LGBTI people experience higher rates of depression and anxiety, and are at greater risk of suicide, than the broader community. This is not due to their sexuality or gender identity, but because of the discrimination and prejudice they too often face.
  • HeadsUp now supports more than 250,000 employers and employees to create more mentally healthy workplaces.

 

2016

  • Healthy Families website launches. The site provides specific information and resources for parents, guardians and people who care for children and young people, access to tailored support and information. 
  • The Way Back Support Service is piloted in the Hunter region of NSW.

 

2017

  • Former Prime Minister The Hon. Julia Gillard AC takes over as Chair of the Board of Directors at Beyond Blue.
  • Beyond Blue, in partnership with the National Health and Medical Research Council contributes $1.25 million over five years towards the Centre of Research Excellence in Childhood Adversity and Mental Health, led by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. You can read more about the project here.
  • Beyond Blue contributes $2.48 million over six years towards Targeted Call for Research into Older Australians and associated Depression, Anxiety and Suicide. The purpose of Targeted Call is to explore ways to prevent depression, anxiety and suicide among elderly Australians and on improving the detection and effective management of these conditions through new and existing interventions and models of care. There are 7 projects across 6 institutions across Australia. You can read more about the projects here.
  • Beyond Blue is appointed by the Australian Government to lead the development and implementation of the National Mental Health in Education initiative. Be You, delivered in partnership with Early Childhood Australia and headspace, is launched in November 2018 and by mid-2020 has been taken up by 70% of schools and over 25% of early learning services nationally.
                                                   

 

2018

  • The Australian Government announces the national expansion of The Way Back Support Service in collaboration with participating States and Territories. Beyond Blue commits $5 million towards the expansion and starts working with Primary Health Networks and local hospitals and agencies on the roll out.
  • Answering the Call is released. Research that provides a comprehensive picture of the mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency services personnel in Australia. Over 21,000 police, fire, ambulance and SES employees, volunteers and former personnel provided insights into their mental health, their experiences of stigma, suicide and mental health issues. 
  • Beyond Blue joins forces with Black Dog Institute, Everymind, headspace, Lifeline, ReachOut and R U OK? to launch #YouCanTalk, to support people to talk openly about suicide. #YouCanTalk is a direct response to research that found people want to do more to prevent suicide in their communities, but don’t know how. Roses in the Ocean and The Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention later join the collaboration.
  • Personal best section of the website launches to provide easily digestible information, stories, tips and strategies to inspire people to achieve their best possible mental health and wellbeing.
  • Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2018-2020. Beyond Blue's first RAP focuses on celebrating and learning more about the world’s oldest continuing culture, building cultural competency, building new relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations, and putting structures in place to ensure delivery of inclusive resources and services to the community.
  • Beyond Blue, in conjunction with the community, undergoes a brand refresh and develops a new logo:

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2019

  • Beyond the Emergency, a world-first study by Turning Point and Monash University, investigates the scale and nature of ambulance call outs to men experiencing acute psychological distress, self-harm or suicidal behaviour. Funded by Beyond Blue and the Movember Foundation, we hope this detailed picture inspires different policy and service decisions. 
  • Beyond Blue forms a national partnership with Wild Women On Top. The partnership will raise vital funds for the Beyond Blue Support Service through Coastrek, Australia’s most popular charity hiking event for women.
  • Beyond Blue issues a statement supporting the Uluru Statement from the Heart and develops an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy to guide our contribution for the next five years.
  • Blue Voices members total over 7,000.
  • Over 300 Speakers and Ambassadors share their stories at over 1,100 events.
  • 193,000 contacts to Beyond Blue’s Support Service via phone, webchat and email, 14% higher than the previous record year. Nearly 40% of people have never sought help before and 75% take action to improve their mental health within three days.
  • 1.6 million visitors to Beyond Blue’s online peer-to-peer forums.
  • 12.9 million visitors to the Beyond Blue websites, a 37% increase on the previous year.
  • The anxiety campaign is seen by almost 1 in 3 people in Australia
  • The Way Back Support Service and NewAccess continue to expand nationally. 

 

"I’d go as far to say The Way Back Support Service has saved my life… I am now six months clean of all drugs and alcohol, which was the reason I gave up living. That was after a 29-year drug habit. I am now studying Cert IV in Mental Health and halfway through my 12-month rehab.” – The Way Back Support Service participant

 

2020

  • Beyond Blue's second Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2020-2022 launches. You can read more about the RAP program here.
  • Beyond Blue works with many others to respond to the summer bushfires and support communities to recover.
  • Beyond Blue is funded by the Australian Government to rapidly develop and deploy a dedicated service to help everyone in Australia cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service provides a digital service, 24/7 phone and webchat counselling, and easy access to the online peer support forums. Partnerships are formed with ReachOut, Lifeline, Mind Australia, Financial Counselling Australia and many others.
  • Beyond Blue's new strategy, Beyond 2020, commences to drive the next stage of Beyond Blue’s efforts to work with the community to improve mental health and prevent suicide. You can read more about the strategic priorities here.

 

“Beyond Blue should be the first place every person in Australia turns to when they have a mental health issue” - Blue Voices member

 

 

 

 

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