News

Research shows you don’t have to be a nerd to benefit from The Brain

15 February 2016

It’s back-to-school-time, and amidst the challenges of new classes and making friends, Beyond Blue is encouraging young people and their parents to get to know Beyond Blue’s ‘The Brain’ character.

New data reveals that more than half of the young Australians who saw The Brain, during a Beyond Blue campaign last year, are now more likely to talk to a friend when they are struggling with problems.

Launched last May, the campaign encouraged teenagers to take action against depression and anxiety. In eight months, The Brain campaign reached nearly three-quarters of Australians aged 13 to 17 through social media, websites and apps.

It featured animated ads and images in which a pesky character, The Brain, barged uninvited into young people’s lives and caused them to experience various symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Teenagers experiencing these symptoms (such as difficulty sleeping, concentrating and socialising) were encouraged to visit www.youthbeyondblue.com and complete ‘The Brain Quiz’ (the K10 test) to assess their mental health and provide advice on getting help if needed.

Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said these results show the quirkiness of The Brain has cut through the crowded online space to reach teenagers, but we need to keep repeating the message.

“As many as one in five school-aged teenagers experience mental health problems and tragically, suicide remains the biggest killer of young Australians every year. The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that in 2013, we lost 350 young people aged 15 to 24 to suicide, around double the number who died as drivers or passengers in car accidents,” she said.

“Too many young people resist speaking up when they’re struggling because they’re worried about how others will perceive them. This campaign aimed to show teenagers that experiencing depression or anxiety doesn’t mean they are weak or weird, it simply means that their ‘Brain’ is giving them a hard time.”

Since the campaign was launched, the average number of visitors to www.youthbeyondblue.com has more than doubled, and around 65,000 teens have completed the quiz. Much of this traffic was prompted by social media posts featuring The Brain, which reached more than 4.3 million Australians.

Besides information on depression and anxiety, visitors to the site also looked at information on other issues young people face, like drugs and alcohol, body image, bullying and cyberbullying and self-harm, and on where to go to get help.

“Staying mentally healthy helps students thrive at school and protects them from problems later in life. Half of all adult mental health conditions emerge by age 14,” Ms Harman said.

“It’s encouraging that more teenagers feel comfortable reaching out to a mate since meeting The Brain, but we need to keep pushing this message. As students return to school, we hope young people (and those around them) will make good mental health a priority.”

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The campaign videos can be viewed here.

Beyond Blue also has a range of evidence-based programs for use by primary and secondary schools, which support good mental health and promote resilience among students, including Kidsmatter Primary, SenseAbility and MindMatters. More information is available here.

Mental health professionals are available at the Beyond Blue Support Service via phone 24/7 on 1300 22 4636 or via www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support for online chat (3PM-12AM AEST) or email responses (within 24 hours).

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