Including Mental Health in an Online Youth Community

The 2018 International Mental Health Conference is almost upon us again, this year the conference will be held over the 8th – 10th August at the RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast, Queensland.

This annual conference is now in its 19th year and continues to be the pinnacle event in the mental health industry. The Conference provides an invaluable opportunity to build relationships and to share knowledge, research and latest policies.

Dr Claire Treadgold, National Manager, Research & Evaluation for the Starlight Children's Foundation joins us at the conference to discuss ‘Wiring Up: Including Mental Health in an Online Youth Community’.


In late 2017 the moderated online community, was relaunched, with the inclusion of adolescents with a mental health diagnosis. The original Livewire program was established in 2008 by the Starlight Children’s Foundation as a response to the unique and unmet psychosocial needs of chronically ill adolescents and their siblings. The online community was designed to connect peers, promoting the voice of lived experience through live chat, private messaging, information provision, community and entertainment content, and blogs.

An omission from the original site was young people with a primary mental health diagnosis. It has been recognised that despite this, the site has many active members with mental health conditions, some resultant from the trauma of having a physical illness. Informal feedback from members and parents indicated that they credit Livewire with benefits and improvements in some member’s mental health, through opportunity for social connection and inclusion, and cultural encouragement of positive coping mechanisms.

A formal review of membership was conducted, including a consultation process with health professionals and youth-focused mental health organisations. There was unanimous support for the official inclusion of mental health conditions in the eligibility criteria of the new site. Aligning with Livewire’s goal to be a social adjunct to treatment, the site provides for the use of online peer-support as a non-therapeutic service.

This presentation will discuss the review process, and recommendations, detailing how the site has been developed to meet these. It will discuss the technological considerations; training and professional development; the inclusion of external expertise and involvement of young people; and the development of policy and risk management. It will demonstrate how an existing online service can be adapted to include and support young people with mental health issues, providing them with an established and supportive community and a forum to share their experience.


Dr Claire Treadgold is the National Manager of Research and Evaluation for Starlight Children’s Foundation. She has over twenty years’ experience in for-purpose organisations, with a particular focus on young people, health and community services. Claire was previously the General Manager of Operations and Services for CanTeen (the Australian Organisation for Young People Living with Cancer) and National Director of the YWCA’s breast cancer support program, Encore. With a PhD in Education, and other degrees in Arts, Communications and Youth Development, Claire has published papers on peer support, advocacy and service delivery amongst other areas.

For further information on the 19th International Mental Health Conference and to secure your spot please visit



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