Australians are turning to technology for mental health support more than ever before. By Joanna Egan.
The Australian Government launched the new e-Mental Health Strategy in July. It sets out to increase all Australians' access to mental health services through the development of new telephone, web and mobile-based self-help tools. In doing so, it aims to give people experiencing mental health issues more places to go to for evidence-based information and round-the-clock support.
Each year, one in five Australians aged from 16 to 85 experiences a mental health issue but only one-third of them seek help.
"Anything we can do to help people take the first step in asking for help is a good thing," says Mark Butler, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing. He says online services are valuable resources for people suffering mild or moderate mental health conditions who don't have access to face-to-face services, or are reluctant to use them, due to limited providers offering services in their area, transport difficulties, a lack of time, or a fear of stigma.
As part of the e-Mental Health Strategy, the Government developed a new, online mental-health portal called mindhealthconnect. The site provides information, support and pathways to therapy.
"This portal allows people to access information and treatment in their own time, in an environment in which they're comfortable," Mark says.
The mindhealthconnect website is one of many e-mental-health services that have emerged in Australia during the past year. Developed with input from psychologists, counsellors and mental-health experts, most of them target high-prevalence conditions such as stress disorders, anxiety and depression, and are designed specifically to help people with mild to moderate symptoms.
Some provide simple strategies to help people self-monitor their condition and self-manage unhelpful thoughts and behaviours, others facilitate real-time interactions between users and trained clinicians, and some include first-hand accounts from people who've experienced living with a mental-health condition.
While e-mental health services are a good first step to take on your road to recovery, it's important to remember they shouldn't stop you from seeking professional help when you need it.
Developed by national mental-health charity SANE Australia, this app aims to help users cope with their anxiety disorder. Featuring tips for managing symptoms, as well as a video library filled with first-hand accounts from people who've experienced the day-to-day challenges of living with an anxiety disorder. This app is a reliable source of information and support – it explains what anxiety is, how it can be treated, and how family and friends can help.
This interactive web-based program offers users the building blocks they need to manage symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Developed by researchers and clinicians from the Black Dog Institute and funded by the Australian Government, it allows users to track their mood, learn coping techniques, read real-life experiences and work through learning modules that help build resilience and promote wellbeing. It includes an SMS and email service that delivers motivational messages to users.
Reach Out Central
This online game helps people aged from 16 to 25 improve life skills such as communication, problem solving and optimistic thinking. Players begin by recording their mood, before engaging in real-life scenarios, played out in virtual settings. To progress through the levels, players interact with characters that have their own needs and objectives. Proven to build coping skills, resilience and life satisfaction, this game shows players how their thoughts, feelings and actions can affect their day-to-day life.
This interactive program features reliable, up-to-date information about emotional problems – including what causes them, how to prevent them and how to treat them. It includes exercises and toolkits packed with strategies designed to help users improve their emotional state while they tackle challenges such as divorce, relationship breakdown, grief and loss. Users learn coping strategies drawn from cognitive, behavioural and interpersonal therapies, as well as relaxation techniques.
This service provides online and telephone support and counselling to young people nationally. Users between the ages of 12 and 25 can email, chat online, or speak to a counsellor about their mental-health concerns. Clinicians are available 16 hours a day, from 9am–1am, and all conversations are confidential and anonymous. Young people can discuss topics such as feelings of isolation, worries about drug and alcohol use, and concerns about their friends and family.
Last updated: December 2012
© Women’s Health Queensland Wide Inc. This article was written by Joanna Egan and reviewed by the Women’s Health Queensland Wide editorial committee. It was published in Health Journey Issue 4 2012.