Including Mental Health in a Supportive Online Youth Community Including Mental Health in a Supportive Online Youth Community

The 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium will this year be held over 15-17 October at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Tasmania.

Joining us at the conference is Dr Claire Treadgold, National Manager, Research & Evaluation at Starlight Children's Foundation who will present on ‘ Including Mental Health in a Supportive Online Youth Community’.

Dr Claire Treadgold


In 2008, Starlight Children’s Foundation established a moderated online community,, in response to the unique and unmet psychosocial needs of chronically ill adolescents and their siblings. It offers the opportunity to connect with peers who understand the complexity of living with chronic health conditions, promoting the voice of lived experience through live chat, private messaging, information provision, community and entertainment content, projects, and blogs. As an online community, it is accessible, regardless of geography or physical constraints.

Despite, many active members who have secondary mental health conditions (some resultant from the trauma of physical illness) an omission from the site was youth with a primary mental health diagnosis. Following discussions with young people and health professionals, a membership criteria review was conducted in 2017, including a consultation process with mental health professionals and youth-focused mental health organisations. Unanimous support for the inclusion of mental health conditions resulted in changing the eligibility criteria.

As an online service, has the benefit of being accessible to regional, rural and remote young people who may struggle to find local support or peer networks. In alignment with Livewire’s goal to be a social adjunct to treatment, this site offers online peer-support as a non-therapeutic service. Informal feedback from members and parents has indicated that they credit Livewire with benefits in the member’s wellbeing, perceived to be influenced by opportunity for social connection and inclusion, and cultural encouragement of positive coping mechanisms.

The review process, findings and recommendations, and how the site has been further developed to provide support will be the focus of this presentation. It will discuss staff training and professional development; the inclusion of external expertise and involvement of young people; and the development of process, policy and risk management that combine to encourage a safe and supportive online community.

Key Learnings:
1. The value of including young people with mental health conditions in a broader online community.
2. The power in rural and regional youth being able to access peer support and social networks for wellbeing.
3. The importance of consultation and planning in developing an online service.


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 more information on the 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium and to secure early bird discounted rates currently on offer please visit



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