Youturn brings World’s first VR environment for mental health to the Sunshine Coast

Jul 15

Youturn brings World’s first VR environment for mental health to the Sunshine Coast

The nation’s 2021 census recently revealed that one-third of Australians have a diagnosed long-term health condition, with mental health issues surpassing every other chronic illness.

Given increased demand, it can be difficult to find support – but Youturn, local not-for-profit on the Sunshine Coast has introduced an innovative solution to assist those seeking support.

“Around Australia, including the Sunshine Coast, people are experiencing substantial difficulties in accessing timely mental health care with demand growing and waiting lists expanding.

“The challenges that today’s generation of young people face are unprecedented and uniquely hard to navigate. And the effect these challenges have had on their mental health is devastating.  We have noticed a significant increase in demand for mental health support services with young people reporting feeling anxious, unsupported or disconnected with feelings of isolation, said Dr Tanya Bell, CEO of Youturn.

“The rental crisis on the Sunshine Coast has been another major impact on the mental health of young people, who report heightened anxiety about living arrangements, loss of work/shifts and the uncertainty around travel and seeing family.” explains Dr Bell.

Mental health concerns represent the largest burden of disease in young people with 50% of mental disorders first emerging by the age of 14 years, and 75% by the age of 24 years. Left untreated, these mental health problems have high rates of recurrence and cause negative outcomes for the individual, including reduced economic productivity, as well as societal costs.

“Early intervention and prioritising access to appropriate mental health support and programs is key!  The sooner that people take action to get support for their mental health, the more likely it is to be effective,” said Dr Tanya Bell, CEO of Youturn.

“Youturn’s mental health programs include five busy headspace centres located across south-east Queensland which provide early intervention services to people between 12 and 25 years. Like all mental health services, our centres in Maroochydore, Gympie, Bundaberg, Caboolture and Toowoomba are all experiencing high demand for support resulting in additional wait times.”

To help alleviate the demand, we are very excited to share that this year we will be fundraising for additional tools and innovative solutions to complement our mental health programs to support young people whilst they wait for or in between their appointments.

Youturn approached Scientia Prof Bennet from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), who has been conducting research in the potential of immersive virtual reality (VR) as an intervention method for individuals suffering mental health concerns such as anxiety, ADHD and depression.

The world’s first virtual reality (VR) environment for mental health and suicide prevention, ‘Edge of the Present’ (EOTP), is an innovative and powerful non-therapeutic tool designed as a 10-minute experience, where users are invited to explore multiple spectacular landscapes using mixed-reality software, with the aim of improving mood, wellbeing, and positive future thinking.   Enabling users to recreate real-life experience, the EOTP VR program, encourages positive thinking and decision making and has proven to significantly alleviate thoughts of hopelessness and stimulate a sense of peace and mindfulness in people with clinical disorders.

Youturn is participating in this ground-breaking study supporting important mental health research.  From June to September, the EOTP VR equipment will be based beside our headspace centre in Maroochydore and anyone wanting to trail or participate can simply go to our website or phone for an appointment, free of charge.

“We are really excited to partner with Prof Bennet, the UNSW and Blackdog Institute and participate in this research.  This presents an innovative solution to help support young people waiting for therapy appointments and will sit alongside and compliment the programs we offer at headspace.” Said Dr Bell.

Young people are less likely than any other age group to seek professional help. At times young people struggle with traditional talk therapy methods in a typical clinical environment.  Sitting face to face with a stranger in a small room to discuss deeply emotional and personal issues can be confronting and difficult and as a result young people are less likely than any other age group to seek professional help.  Many young men in particular are dissuaded to seek help, but we believe that the EOTP has enormous potential for those who are typically comfortable with technology and gaming.

“Partnering with Youturn has been the perfect solution to bring EOTP into communities.  I would also like to acknowledge our partners Black Dog Institute, UNSW Big Anxiety Research Centre and Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

Commenting recently, Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said arts and creativity play an important role in delivering positive health outcomes for Queenslanders, providing an outlet for expression and connection.  “Arts can help heal and evoke conversation, and through projects like this, the arts are providing an important platform for discussions around mental health,” Ms Enoch said.

“In conclusion, we should open our minds to think differently about mental health in a post-pandemic world. Raising awareness about mental health is not enough – we need new ways of thinking, imagining, feeling and acting and resources that are both practical and inspiring,” said Prof Bennett.

— ENDS —


Notes to the Editor:

Youturn is a not-for-profit charity based at Tewantin that was started over 30 years ago to help address youth homelessness in the Noosa region.  Since then, the organisation has grown substantially working with young people and those that support them, expanding their focus to include Child Safety, Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and of course Homelessness.

Their humble beginnings started as a Youth Homelessness grass roots project in 1989 with the Noosa Accommodation Project (NAP) which was officially launched by 5 volunteers supporting six young people.  They have grown significantly since then to work at 14 locations across South East Queensland with a staff base of 160 employees and last year helped over 9,600 people.


VR Media Images can be downloaded HERE

General Photos can be downloaded HERE

Youturn Youth Support media contact:

Antoinette Lloyd

Media, Communications and Events Manager
Mob: 0474 421 100


Our organisation is a company limited by guarantee. We are registered with the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission (ACNC), classified a Public Benevolent Institution (PBI) with Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status.

StandBy Support After Suicide is a program of Youturn Limited

Contact us



Youturn supports young and vulnerable people of all ages across Australia, committed to ensuring that they have access to secure and affordable housing, and enjoy optimal mental wellbeing.

Youturn would like to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s First People and Traditional Custodians. We value their cultures, identities, and continuing connection to country, waters, kin and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and are committed to making a positive contribution to the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, by providing services that are welcoming, safe, culturally appropriate and inclusive

Youturn is committed to embracing diversity and eliminating all forms of discrimination in the provision of health services. Youturn welcomes all people irrespective of ethnicity, lifestyle choice, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity.

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