Ruby Riethmuller started youth mental health organisation Womn-Kind around the common refrain "I thought it was just me".
Through Womn-Kind, the 24-year-old university student from Wagga Wagga has started a community of young women who act as mentors to pre-teen and teenage girls, offering 24/7 relatable support.
"I think, as a teenager, a lot of the experiences and emotions you encounter can leave you feeling a bit isolated … when the reality of it is that experiences as a teenager are totally normal and often very universal," Ms Riethmuller said.
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The mentors — located in Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Moree, Sydney and Melbourne — are trained in mental health first aid and also act as a referral network, helping girls connect with psychologists and other more traditional forms of mental health support if needed.
This week, Womn-Kind was announced as the winner of the Buy from the Bush Big Break competition and awarded $30,000 in funding.
The inaugural competition saw rural business owners and entrepreneurs across Australia pitch their ideas voted on by close to 6,000 people.
Ms Riethmuller said she would use the $30,000 to develop a Womn-Kind app.
App will allow girls in remote and rural Australia to access support
The app will ensure anyone is able to access mentoring and mental health support regardless of location, allowing the organisation to reach girls in rural and remote Australia.
"Young people in regional areas can experience more adversities than their metropolitan peers, whether that's feeling more isolated or feeling like there are fewer services to access within their community," Ms Riethmuller said.
"This app will ensure they have a safe place to engage in mental health activities and conversations … they can feel connected to peers online in a safe and really positive way.
Youth mental health is an issue that has been in the spotlight since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Ms Riethmuller referred to a study from The University of Sydney that estimated that by November this year 60 per cent of Australia's youth will have experienced psychological distress.
"The statistics speak for themselves in saying that it really is a challenge for young people," she said.