Ruby Riethmuller founded Womn-Kind when she was just 23, as a way to encourage conversation around mental health and support, inspire and empower young women.
Soon, she’ll be launching the Womn-Kind app, a first of its kind social wellness app, to improve access to mental health resources for young people all over the country.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to start Womn-Kind?
As a teenager, I never took my privilege for granted. I was raised in a home filled with love, I was able bodied and had access to many opportunities. I was blessed with a great education and had a group of friends that made my school days a real joy. Though seeing the impact of mental illness play out within my circle – one of privilege – made it impossible not to consider how different the experience would be for those who didn’t walk in the shoes I did.
Having grown up on a farm in regional NSW and navigated my own mental health challenges, I felt compelled to create a youth-led organisation in the hope of reducing the burden of mental illness on young people, their families and Australia more widely. I believed that to curb the statistics and change the stigma, young people needed to be at the heart of the solution, which is why I started Womn-Kind. Perhaps born around the idea that ‘‘I thought it was just me (but it isn’t),’’ Womn-Kind is a unique source of personal empowerment and emotional support with a strong philosophy of girls leading girls and young people leading young people.
What are some of the issues that girls and non-binary young people face that Womn-Kind helps to address?
Research suggests that over 60% of young people in Australia are suffering from psychological distress and that suicide is the leading cause of death for young people in our country – mental illness is perhaps the most commonly experienced issue of our generation. Growing up as a young person in today’s world has its complexities. At the centre of many of the challenges faced by young people is pressure, whether it be in the form of social pressure, academic pressure, family pressure, peer pressure or the pressure that comes with the expectations people have of young people.
Womn-Kind dives into a range of topics including fostering body confidence, engaging in personal growth, developing leadership skills, creating a balanced lifestyle, practicing healthy habits, communicating your needs and emotions, navigating changing relationships, using your voice for good and managing uncomfortable emotions.
You also run wellbeing workshops and programs in schools. What has the reaction been like from the schools that participate in your workshops?
School students, parents and educators alike have responded incredibly well to our in-school wellbeing workshops. Our programs and workshops are innovative in their delivery and approach though guided by best practices and built around the foundation of sisterhood and the Womn-Kind values – kindness, camaraderie, innovation, courage, passion, integrity and curiosity. Womn-Kind mentors – who are qualified in Mental Health First Aid training – deliver workshops across the country both in-person and online and in 2023 we hope to visit more regional, rural and remote locations.
What is the value of mentorship for young people?
Womn-Kind provides girls with an ally without judgement. Together our mentors are nurturing the upcoming generation of empowered female leaders to recognise their potential, find comfort in their own skin and take proactive charge of their mental health.
Girls are naturally interested in our mentors and programs because we speak in their language, we build on each other’s energy, we’re wearing the sneakers on their birthday wishlist and we have first-hand experience and advice from our very recent years as teenage girls. Because they respect us as being relatable, caring and empowering role models, they are already more inclined to engage in the content, ideas and activities.
Even with a loving family, a great group of friends or the support of school staff, teenage girls can often feel isolated, lost or misunderstood. Very iconically, our generation feel isolated from each other by the very feelings, emotions and experiences that we have in common, therefore there is huge value in mentorship for young people to understand that they are not alone in their struggles and that the path they tread is one well traveled.
How can we as a community better support young people when it comes to mental health and wellbeing? Are there any major changes you’d like to see in Australia?
We all engage with young people – whether it be at the supermarket or on the sports sideline – so it’s important that we all actively consider the shadow we cast as influencers of young people. If we are to encourage young people to feel comfortable to share their emotions and experiences – both the good and the bad – then we as a community need to practice what we preach in being open to having the sometimes hard conversations, lean into vulnerability and engage in mental health promoting conversations and activities regardless of the presence or absence of mental illness.
We should also never underestimate the ability of young people and the many ways in which they feel empowered to create positive change for themselves and their peers. Young people are as much the future leaders as they are the present leaders and therefore need to be present in any room where decisions are made, particularly when those decisions relate to them.
You are just about to launch the Womn-Kind app. Can you tell us a bit about its aims and features?
The Womn-Kind App is a first of its kind social wellness app, which will provide on-demand access to evidence-based, engaging and largely preventative wellbeing resources that optimise the mental health of girls and gender diverse young people. Launched in October 2022, our app has been carefully curated over the last 18 months by young people for young people and will ensure that every girl – regardless of their geographic location – has access to the right support at the right time, all the time.
Our app covers a whole range of topics – everything from leadership to consent, sleep and body image – and has an abundance of resources including yoga, pilates, meditation and breathing videos. Users have the opportunity to engage within an inclusive, diverse and empowering online community and connect with a network of allied health professionals from the comfort and convenience of their own device.
The Womn-Kind App is available to download from the App Store.
What has been one of your biggest challenges in starting Womn-Kind?
Founding Womn-Kind in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic came with its challenges but also posed a promising opportunity to connect with our target audience at a time where they were really yearning for connection, support and a sense of belonging. As a young person myself, I am learning every single day while working on and growing Womn-Kind, which has meant that almost daily I’m confronted with challenges and in turn, opportunities for growth.
What has been one of your proudest moments?
I feel incredibly proud of the community we have built in a short time and the ways in which our community continues to influence and inspire us. It’s such an honour to be considered a big sister to thousands of girls across the country and to be launching an app that will directly and indirectly influence the trajectory of the lives of young people now and in the future.
What’s next for you and Womn-Kind?
At Womn-Kind we are committed to continuing to adapt our services according to the ever-evolving needs and challenges of young people, so will be guided by our community as to what’s next.
In 2023 we anticipate focusing our efforts on the Womn-Kind App, Dear Sister: A Womn-Kind Podcast (available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts), growing our Instagram community (@womnkind), partnering with more incredible organisations that support young people and maybe most importantly, embarking on a regional tour to deliver wellbeing workshops in communities that may otherwise not have the same access to mental health services as their metropolitan peers.
To stay up to date with what’s happening in the world of Womn-Kind, check out our Instagram (@womnkind) or website – www.womn-kind.com.au
Check out our interview with YFoundations CEO Pam Barker about their great work in advocating for youth experiencing homelessness.