Aussie woman's unique idea to help young girls in need of support

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  • Mental health
    Mental health

A 24-year-old woman from regional NSW is rethinking how we approach mental health and the wellness of young women.

Womn-Kind was born amid a global pandemic, when conversations surrounding mental health became more prevalent than ever before, but it was an idea Ruby Riethmuller had for some time.

Growing up on a farm in Wagga Wagga, Ruby was an only child for the first few years of her life.

"All I ever wanted was a sister, I kind of realised now that it's not just as easy as saying like, 'I want a sister for Christmas'," she told Yahoo News Australia.

Ruby Riethmuller started Womn-Kind, a platform that provides mentoring for young women. Source: Supplied/Ruby Riethmuller
Ruby Riethmuller started Womn-Kind, a platform that provides mentoring for young women. Source: Supplied/Ruby Riethmuller

Then, her sister was born when she was eight years old, her brother came four years after and she took on the role of protecting her younger siblings.

For her senior years of high school, Ruby attended a boarding school in Sydney, saying she had the best of both worlds — she enjoyed city life, but had a farm to return to for the holidays.

While she was at boarding school, the idea for Womn-Kind came about.

The importance of peer-to-peer support

"While I was at school, a lot of the time if I was feeling flat or lonely or homesick or stressed about anything, it wasn't so much the teachers or even my parents that I turned to but I would go and sit in an older girls' dorm and talk to them," she said.

Ruby turned to her older peers because she knew they knew what she was going through and once she was in her final years, younger girls were knocking on her door.

"That definitely was where the idea of Womn-Kind was born, in the fact that you know, at a school like the school I went to, I was so fortunate to have, you know, like every resource under the sun," she said.

"But at the end of the day, what was so valuable for me and for my peers was actually those kind of peer-to-peer relationships, and being able to turn girls for supports."

Having experienced the importance of peer support, Ruby formalised the idea in 2020 after it played on her mind since leaving school.

A graphic showing the mission of the peer support app Womn-Kind. Source: Womn-Kind
Womn-Kind is on a mission to empower young women and provide them with the resources they need. Source: Womn-Kind

With an emphasis on mentoring, Womn-Kind pairs younger girls, with mentors aged in their 20s, to help guide them through the sometimes difficult teen years.

"Together we nurture the upcoming generation of empowered female leaders in taking charge of their mental health and having the confidence to speak up and the knowledge in how to respond to people who might be struggling," Womn-Kind explains on its website.

Ruby recently won Buy From the Bush's Big Break competition after pitching a Womn-Kind app, which is slated to launch next year.

All the merchandise goes back into Womn-Kind app and Ruby plans on releasing a podcast next year with her sister, called Dear Sister.

In addition to providing support, mentors are trained in mental health first aid and Womn-Kind acts as a referral network, if a situation could be better handled by a medical professional.

Womn-Kind connects young women to mentors, and is ready to provide further resources to those who need them. Source: Supplied/Ruby Riethmuller
Womn-Kind connects young women to mentors, and is ready to provide further resources to those who need them. Source: Supplied/Ruby Riethmuller

The issues facing young women

Ruby says young women often feel isolated from one another despite going through shared experiences.

"The reality of the matter is, there are so many girls who are either going through what they've gone through at the same time, or they are you know, Womn-Kind mentors like us who are aged between 20 and 26, who have very recently been in those girls' shoes," Ruby said.

"I think, you know, a lot of our mentors feel almost a responsibility to give back to the girls who are just younger than us because we know how it felt, you know, to me in their position and how scary it can feel."

Womn-Kind is also somewhat bridging the gap in resources in regional communities.

Ruby said she believes there is a gap in resources available to girls in regional communities, compared to girls living in metropolitan areas.

"Whether that's because they live in a town where a waitlist to see a psychologist is three months or longer, or whether they could know, or have a close relationship with the psychologist, whether that's their Auntie's friend or their neighbour," Ruby said.

"I think, definitely there are a lot more challenges in those regional centres with even little things like access to information around mental health and and other health things."

She said this was why the development of the Womn-Kind app would be so valuable because it wouldn't matter where someone was located, anyone would be able to access it.

Ruby Riethmuller pictured after receiving funding for the Womn-Kind app. Source: Supplied/Ruby Riethmuller
Ruby Riethmuller won $30,000 in funding for a Womn-Kind app. Source: Supplied/Ruby Riethmuller

Rethinking how social media is used

Womn-Kind also has a heavy social media presence, where the team is trying to create a healthy and safe environment for young women.

Ruby recognised some social media platforms are criticised for influencing negative thought behaviours, but Womn-Kind aims to be more constructive with their online presence.

Research shows teenagers are more likely to reach for their phone for advice instead of seeking more traditional avenues of advice, Ruby said.

"In the 21st century, we are not going to change the habits of young people using their devices," Ruby said.

"What we can do, or what we can control to some degree, is how they use their device for good."

Above all else, Womn-Kind focuses on kindness and inclusion and aims to show girls there is more to life than what is shown on Instagram and failing a test at school isn't the end of the world.

"I think that we kind of try to lead by example in showing them that there's more to life than what you see on the surface and there's more support available," Ruby said.

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