November 5, 2004 The Australian-based Inspire Foundation has successfully piloted an SMS based exam stress service for young people to help them manage their final year exams.
13,500 messages delivered help and information directly to more than 2,000 young people around Australia who subscribed to the pioneer study. In Australia much of the final mark to enter tertiary education depends on the results of the final year of exams, known as 'Year 12' (equivalent to the British 'O' levels). This can create an unbelievably stressful period for many young people at a volatile period in their lives.
The service was delivered as an extension of the Inspire Foundation's Reach Out! program (www.reachout.com.au), which uses the Internet to help young people get through tough times by giving them the information and support that empowers them to help themselves. The Inspire Foundation is a registered charity that creates opportunities for young people to help themselves and help others. It was established in 1996 in response to Australia's then escalating rates of youth suicide.
Bridget, from Western Australia, subscribed to the service while studying for her end-of-year exams. "(The SMS tips) were always interesting and helpful...if you'd had a bad day or were just stressing out a bit then it was good to get back from school and find a message on your phone from Reach Out!. It just helps you calm down a little and puts things back in perspective."
Jonathan Nicholas, Inspire Foundation's Director of Programs, says that the success of the trial indicates it filled a need for personal support during exam period.
"Young people have told us that they often feel very isolated during the time of intensive study in the leadup to and during the actual exams, although they may have received support earlier in the year. When you're feeling alone or overwhelmed, receiving a message on your mobile phone means that someone out there cares and knows what you're going through," Jonathan says.
Visits to the Reach Out! website increased by 20% over the exam period, indicating young people were seeking further support as a result of receiving tips on their mobile phones.
Based on the success of the trial, the Inspire Foundation is now looking for partners to enable the implementation of SMS service delivery on a regular and larger scale in what could see a move towards always on, ubiquitous support through new communications technologies.