Lithys 2015: SANE Australia - Excellence in Customer Satisfaction

Lithys 2015: SANE Australia - Excellence in Customer Satisfaction

Company: SANE Australia logo.png
Entry submitted by: Faruk Avdi (faruchidorDirector – Digital, Service Design & Technology

Community: SANE Forums (

Lithy category: Excellence in Customer Satisfaction



SANE Australia is a leading mental health charity. It is devoted to helping all Australians affected by mental illness lead a better life -- through support, training, and education. SANE began its operations almost thirty years ago, and its award-winning information services and Helpline are highly regarded.


In 2014, our customer satisfaction initiatives were as follows:

  1. The release of anonymous, moderated online peer-to-peer support services for people affected by mental illness, in the form of two online communities: one for people living with mental illness, and one for family, friends and other carers
  2. An innovative Partner-and-syndicate model (the first to our knowledge in the health sector) involving syndication of the communities to 15 other not-for-profit service providers (See: and then for partner versions. By ‘syndication’ we mean the communities are ‘embedded’ in partner websites, taking on their branding, and seamlessly available via primary navigation. Partner organisations are also enabled to publish their own content via custom components within the communities, see: for an example)
  3. A mobile customisation of the services mentioned above (Lithium mobile version 1), integrated into SANE’s website menu and adopting branding elements for partner versions.


The most important customer issues SANE Australia was looking to solve via its Lithium implementation were:

  • Providing a moderated and anonymous online peer-to-peer service to all people affected by mental illness, in all locations of Australia, including those isolated by distance or other factors
  • A service covering the full spectrum of mental illness, but focused on the person, not the diagnosis
  • Creation of strong and welcoming communities
  • Enabling members and non-members alike to safely obtain and discover quality peer support and information, which empowers them to deal with mental health issues
  • Contribute to the improved mental health of Forums users
  • Enable discovery of the service via trusted relationships formed within pre-existing (offline) communities


SANE Forums has been designed as a service, end-to-end, utilising user-centred design. User-centred service design helped SANE identify potential difficulties in discoverability of the service (with only a small budget for marketing).


This led to the design and eventual delivery of the partner-and-syndicate model referred to in Q1. This model allows individuals in the community to discover and participate in SANE Forums via a trusted context of an organisation they are already familiar with. This has extended the reach of SANE Forums to tens of thousands more individuals.


This partner-and-syndicate model has had many collateral benefits. Taken together they demonstrate a ‘gold-standard’ approach in the mental health sector:

  • Between 60% and 75% of users are obtaining the intended benefits of the service
  • THE Community Health Index (CHI) of SANE Forums sits around 500-550 since the launch of the forums in August
  • Nearly 30% of service traffic has come in through partner websites
  • The service is free-of-charge to partner-organisations in return for a contribution of hours and/or expertise into the pool of moderators, thus increasing the specialist advice available via the forums
  • Organisations in an underfunded sector are able to leverage expensive world-class technology, pooling efforts and expertise 


SANE Forums is unique in Australia, providing the first non-diagnosis-specific, online peer-to-peer support service for people living with mental illness, and the first truly national and viable online peer-to-peer support service for families, friends and other carers.


‘I so truly love that I can honestly share a little of me here and be privileged to read and know of others stories. Thank you Sane and all the people here sharing. I feel a glimmer of understanding and connection in this forum that I have not felt before.’

-  Member, Lived Experience Forum 


Hi Everyone,
Just wanted to let you know how helpful I have found the information posted here. My husband has major depression and has been receiving treatment in a clinic. This process was a stressful one for us both, including the time leading up to the hospital stay.


As a result of your input, I have found myself being far more assertive and proactive … and I have made contact with carer support organisations and have a couple of referrals in for programs for both myself and my husband.


Thankyou for helping me navigate a way through/ into the system!’  

- Member, Carers Forum


SANE Forums was funded by the Australian Government, Department of Health and launched in August 2014. The service has exceeded all expectations and metrics set by the Department for visitation and usage. Within seven months of the launch and as at 21 March 2015, SANE Forums have had:

  • 32,141 unique visitors
  • 8,700 visitors from rural, regional and remote areas (estimate)
  • 1,002 members
  • 265 members (27%) from rural, regional and remote areas
  • 10,795 comments posted
  • 339,366 pages of comments and information viewed
  • 101,334 pages of comments and information viewed via smart phone
  • Almost one third of users (28%) have accessed the service through our partner organisations.


Registrations for the service have very steadily increased since launch. An initial seeding and testing pool of 300+ members helped launch a warm and welcoming service, vibrant with helpful discussion, from day one.


Member registrations per month

SANE registration per month graph.jpg


The service remains non-diagnostic in focus, and uniquely available to people experiences health issues across the full spectrum of mental health issues.


Content analysis in an Evaluation conducted on the service found a great diversity among members, with 29 different diagnoses discussed across the Carers and Lived Experience Forums.


Common non-diagnosis specific discussion themes include the following:


Carers Forum


Coping with mental illness and symptoms of loved ones


Navigating mental health systems


Refusing treatment


Relation breakdown/conflict




Lived Experience Forum













Both communities are showing various signs of good and growing health, including a CHI score hovering between 500 and 550, and the vast majority of comments being posted by and in response to community members:


Member and moderator generated posts %

SANE post graph.jpg

In terms of the primary purpose of the service, early indications look very promising. The highest-rated themes reported by respondents to the recent Evaluation survey were:

  • Safety
  • Connection
  • Less stigma
  • Feeling supported by peers


The fostering of these elements will assist in continual growth and participation of members and the overall sense of community.

Evaluation findings also show that mental health benefits are emerging. Increased mental health literacy and empowerment were highly rated across both communities.


Repeat visitors to the service average 25-30% per week. Average session durations on the forums averages above 10 minutes per session.

The Evaluation referred to above has many positive statistics indicating the service is becoming an important resource for people living with mental illness, and for families, friends and other carers in Australia.


To share some statistics from just one category, concerning ‘access to reliable information, advice and referral drawing on the vast experience and expertise of peers as well as that of experts in the field’, the Evaluation found:

  • 88.9% of survey respondents from the Carers Forum and 64.4% from the Lived Experience Forum agree that they can find advice and support that is suitable and/or relevant for their needs
  • 81.5% of survey respondents from the Carers Forum and 80% from the Lived Experience Forum agree that they have gained new insights through hearing about other people’s experiences
  • 51.9% of respondents from the Carers Forum and 48.9% from the Lived Experience Forum agree that they have used information resources (links, phone numbers and other) provided in discussion threads
  • 55.6% of survey respondents from the Carers Forum and 48.9% from the Lived Experience Forum agree that they’ve learned new practical strategies
  • 37.0% of survey respondents from the Carers Forum and 31.1% from the Lived Experience Forum agree that they have accessed services recommended by members and/or moderators


These statistics show that the service is making a real difference in people’s lives.


This marks a turning point for online, peer-to-peer support services in Australia.


All of this has been made possible via the efforts of talented and caring people from Snaffle Web, Isobar, Persistent Systems and Lithium, and with Lithium's platform and ongoing generous support.


1 Comment
Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Status changed to: 2015 Lithy Submission