Bupa backs a number of mental health support and research projects

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Bupa has announced support and funding for a range of initiatives focussed on supporting Australians managing mental health issues.

Bupa Health Foundation has announced several million dollars in support for a range of initiatives, including a boost in funding for Kids Helpline and grants to Macquarie University and Edith Cowan University for research into youth mental health.

The foundation is extending its existing support to the Kids Helpline My Circle digital platform.

The platform enables young people to connect anonymously with their peers for online group counselling.

Tracy Adams, CEO of yourtown, the organisation that runs Kids Helpline, said the funding from the Bupa Health Foundation will extend the My Circle digital platform to support up to 10,000 young people over the next two years. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of young people connecting with others to improve their mental health.

“With My Circle, we have been able to provide a secure, modern social networking environment to young people to help them navigate challenges in their life. It’s a place where they can anonymously share their experiences, understand that they are not alone and learn how their peers have dealt with the same challenges. A qualified counsellor is available to provide extra support during all My Circles’ contacts,” said Ms Adams.

The additional funding will enable The University of Sydney to further evaluate the evidence-base of the My Circle platform and service and develop an innovative, cost-effective Digital Mental Health Practice Model that can be adopted by other organisations to support vulnerable groups.

Dr Andrew Campbell, chair of the Cyberpsychology Research Group at The University of Sydney, said the development of an evidence-based, mental health-specific social network for young people was long overdue.

 “Young people with lived experiences of mental health concerns often prefer to seek help and management using tools they’re familiar with, like social networking platforms, but need to be assured that their privacy is being protected and they are receiving qualified counsellor advice. My Circles is the first custom designed and evidence-based social network platform to achieve this,” said Dr Campbell.

Hisham El-Ansary, Bupa ANZ CEO, said, “We know this is a critical time for mental health support to the Australian community as we deal with the aftermath of the tragic bushfires and continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic."

Macquarie University and Edith Cowan University have will receive $800,000 from Bupa Health Foundation for new research targeting early interventions to improve the emotional wellbeing of children in Australian schools over.

The foundation's recent competitive funding round called for research focusing on early intervention to improve outcomes in the mental wellbeing of school-aged children and adolescents.

Macquarie University and Edith Cowan University were chosen as this year’s recipients from more than 100 applications.

Macquarie University Centre for Emotional Health will receive $700,000 for a research project that will develop an evidence-base to enable early intervention and care pathways for schools to help identify young people who are struggling with existing and emerging emotional disorders.

Edith Cowan University’s research project will receive approximately $90,000 to look at how to support schools to provide frontline support for children’s wellbeing and mental health through their libraries as wellbeing hubs.

According to Annette Schmiede, Bupa Health Foundation executive leader, “In recent years we’ve streamlined the Bupa Health Foundation’s funding rounds to support projects which focus on priority areas and challenges of concern to the community and governments across Australia. Young people’s mental health is of great concern in the current environment of natural disasters and the global pandemic.

“We believe both these research projects will make significant contributions towards the evidence base for early interventions to help schools identify young people whose emotional well-being is at risk.”

Bupa has also announced it has partnered with mental health solution provider Mindstar and digital innovator Go1 to create a mental health and wellbeing hub 'designed by men for men' that will be offered free to eligible Bupa members in Victoria at a time when many face growing mental health challenges as a result of the social and financial impacts of COVID-19.

The hub includes learning resources on topics such as maintaining mental fitness, dealing with isolation, fatherhood, how to stress-less and social connection. These have been identified as essential elements of everyday life which have changed dramatically during COVID-19.