Is it possible to be serious and fun? And can gameplay improve teenagers’ mental health and wellbeing? Jono Nicholas, CEO ReachOut, Australia’s leading online mental health organisation for young people explains why they believe ‘yes’ it can.

Resilience is one of the biggest buzzwords in teaching right now, and for good reason. The ability to bounce back when going through a rough time can improve students’ concentration, relationships, exam performance and general mental health.

Building resilience in teens is why we built ReachOut Orb – a one-of-a-kind serious game with wellbeing at its core. What’s all this about serious games? Here are four things you should know about serious gaming and ReachOut Orb.

New research has shown that in some cases teens prefer serious games to traditional teaching methods.

Serious games provide an opportunity to teach behaviour change, promote positive mindsets and support learning experiences that haven’t been tried before. By providing an innovative classroom package to accompany the game, we’ve made it easy for teachers to help Year 9 and 10 students learn how to improve their resilience, focus on their strengths, and develop positive emotions.

ReachOut Orb is built around positive education – an application of positive psychology that could change the way we teach wellbeing in schools.

By teaching positive education through virtual experiences in the game, students can learn skills to build their wellbeing, in turn having an effect on academic success, creative thinking, positive relationships and resilience.

The gameplay is serious but fun.

In ReachOut Orb, students enter a virtual world where The Glitch (a negative force) has taken over and drained colour from the world. Students interact with different characters in an attempt to boost their own and other characters’ wellbeing and to return colour and positivity to the world. It’s a serious but fun way to practice skills that help you be happier every day.

Students and teachers give it the thumbs up

Here’s proof. One teacher told us: “Once my students started to focus on the positives in their lives, they realised they can work on their happiness. That will really change and make a big improvement in their lives.”

Students liked it too, even reflecting some of the game’s messages in their comments. “Your opinion of yourself is really important to keep you happy. It’s easier to find a way to look at the good things in life rather than the bad.”

ReachOut Orb was a collaborative project with Reach Out, the Telstra Foundation and Soap Creative, and is s available to all Australian schools at no fee.

Teaching resources around the ReachOut Orb are mapped to the Australian Health and Physical Education and NSW PDHPE curriculums. Download ReachOut Orb for tablet or desktop computer and the free teaching resource now at

Partnering with the Telstra Foundation

Since launching the world’s first online mental health service 20 years ago, the ReachOut team has continued to challenge themselves to re-imagine the delivery of their services to young people. Today, ReachOut is the gateway to Australia’s mental health system for young people and is currently accessed by 1.58m people each year.

The Telstra Foundation, shares ReachOut’s optimism in the power of innovation and technology to change lives. We are proud to support ReachOut on this journey – as we have for many years – partnering in a number of youth-focussed social innovation programs through the Telstra Foundation. We continue to partner with them to support their aim to reach an additional one million people over the next three years.