What this organisation did with a Community Grant to help young Muslims with mental health

Helping Hands is a community-based, peer-support program for young Muslim people. Here's how an Australia Post Community Grant is helping their mission.

Designed by and for young Muslim people, Helping Hands—by local Melbourne organisation, Six Degrees—was established in 2022 to provide mental health support to young members of the Muslim community.

The program connects ‘Help Seekers’ with ‘Help Givers’, who are specially trained to provide mental health support to those who may be enduring hardship. The goal is to normalise the conversation around mental health, particularly in the Muslim community, and offer a safe space for young people to access important mental health tools and resources.

Help Seekers can either book a face-to-face appointment online or drop in to one of the various Helping Hands locations—usually a mosque or university musallah (prayer space)—to access mental health and wellbeing support.

Bridging the gap between mental health support and the Muslim community

When deciding on their mission, the team at Helping Hands were adamant they didn’t want to create “just another mental health initiative”. It was important to design a program that adequately represented the values and belief systems that are upheld by young Muslim people in today’s society.

While most Help Givers have basic knowledge in psychology, usually it’s the spiritual connection between community members that offers the most benefit. Often, Help Seekers find comfort in talking with someone who has similar experiences to their own.

“It was really important to us to imbue Islamic principles within our program and make sure people accessing the program knew that it was for them,” says Helping Hands Management Lead, Hana Umer.

“That's why Helping Hands is so unique because we not only connect [young Muslim people] with people who already understand their background, but also, who have a little bit more experience as to how to navigate that as well.”

Two Muslim women wearing hijabs smile and embrace in a handshake. Helping Hands signage is behind them.
Help Seekers can either book a face-to-face appointment online or drop in to one of the various Helping Hands locations.

How a Community Grant is helping to spread Helping Hands’ message about mental wellbeing

Funds from the 2022 Australia Post Community Grant enabled the team to provide additional training and resources for help givers and the Six Degrees team.

The grant also helped further promote the Helping Hands program at university events, community conferences and across social media—including a collaboration with Australia Post on the ‘Delivering the goods’ marketing campaign. These initiatives increased the presence and accessibility of the program and helped to curate a more welcoming space for people to attend the sessions.

Hana explains how these measures help to validate the work the team at Helping Hands does: “The Australia Post Grant has given us recognition, that other people also see the value in the program. I think that's really special because that's where change happens…when people sit up and say, ‘that actually sounds like a good idea’.”

“The validation that the Grant gave was also really powerful. Especially in communities like ours, which I feel don't always get the support that we need, in the way we need it.”

Three young Muslim men sit cross-legged on the floor and enjoy a deep conversation.
The conversation around mental health is changing amongst all age demographics in the Muslim community.

“It was beyond what we could have dreamed”: The Muslim community’s response to the Helping Hands program

Despite initial nervousness around how effective the program would be, Hana explains how wonderful it is to see the local Muslim community in Melbourne embrace it. She says, “I've had parents even come up to me and say, ‘I think this is a great initiative. I wish my child had it in high school or in primary school’. The reception from the community has been so much more supportive than we ever could have ever thought.”

Through the Helping Hands program, Hana believes the conversations around mental health are changing—not only with young Muslim people but within the broader community, too.

“Someone told me the other day, they were at the congregational prayer (held every Friday) and this elderly man turned to another and said, ‘Hey, how have you been? How is your mental health doing?’”

“This came as a shock to me, as I wasn't expecting to see the ripple effect from these conversions to resonate with the broader community,” says Hana.

Over-the-shoulder view of a Muslim man holding a Helping Hands brochure. Text reads ‘Are you struggling with your mental health?’.
A grant from Australia Post enabled the organisation to print marketing materials to help build awareness of the program.

Hana’s top tips for people thinking about applying for a Community Grant

Using the information on the Australia Post Community Grants web page, the team at Helping Hands were able to divide their tasks up to make the application process quick and easy. Hana’s top three tips for anyone thinking of applying for grant are:

  1. Understand the problem that your community organisation is trying to solve and how it fits in the broader landscape of interventions. This helps justify the case for why your organisation is best placed to receive the grant funding.
  2. Try to plan the allocation of resources to further grow your organisation in a way that best serves the community in a way that maximises value for money.
  3. Consider an evaluation approach to test the effect of your initiative on the broader community and be willing to re-evaluate, change and optimise how you serve the community based on what the community needs.

When it comes to her top piece of advice for those thinking about applying for an Australia Post Community Grant, Hana says:

“Dream big. Dream big for your community. Dream big for yourself. And dream big for your organisation…because that's when change happens.”

Connecting local communities

Australia Post is delivering the goods for local communities with grants to support mental wellbeing. Because when we connect, we feel better.