Mind Health Connect has been dubbed by Mental Health and Ageing Minister Mark Butler as a strategy that represents the beginning of a new chapter in Australia’s e-mental health system.
The Inspire Foundation welcomed this month the launch of Mind Health Connect with CEO Jonathan Nicholas saying that Inspire is delighted to be a formal partner of Mind Health Connect.
“The portal represents an important step in real mental health reform – reform which is not just about more money, but investing in innovative solutions that are able to reach and engage large numbers of people at low cost," Mr Nicholas said.
With the Inspire Foundation being the organisation behind youth mental health service ReachOut.com, Mr Nicholas is certain that the internet is imperative in combating minor mental health illnesses, especially for today’s youth.
“We know from a decade of experience with ReachOut.com that the demand for online services continues to grow. In the last year alone over 600,000 young people engaged with our program,” Mr Nicholas said.
Mind Health Connect is looking to do similar things as Reach Out.com, but with an older audience.
The new portal is a government initiative, but the Inspire Foundation is working with the sector to contribute content.
“The web offers a scalable accessible component and compliment to clinical services like doctors, psychiatrists and phycologists,” Mr Nicholas said.
The Inspire Foundation is dedicated to increasing young people’s knowledge of mental health and well being, along with expanding their help-seeking skills and ensuring they feel less alone.
“We want to empower young people via the internet where they feel confident to talk about sensitive issues,” Mr Nicholas said.
“My role within the Inspire community has been dynamic – a leader, a listener, an inspirer, an inspired, a learner, a teacher and never alone, ”a member of the Inspire community, who wishes to remain anonymous, said.
Inspire is working to ensure that the mental health of young people is recognised as a top national priority.
The government is committed to ensuring that evidence based, e-mental health services are available for people of all ages with a mental health disorder.
Mr Butler says that the reform agenda is an opportunity to find innovative ways to further improve our mental health system.
“It will help Australia develop accessible, high quality, innovative and effective online and telephone services for people experiencing mental health problems,” he said.
E-mental health services offer such an approach – both as an alternative, and as an addition, to face-to-face mental health care.
These services are aimed at people experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of mental illness, particularly those who are experiencing stress, anxiety or depression.
Anxiety disorders and depression are the most common disorders and 75 percent of mental illness begins before the age of 25.
According to Mr Nicholas, young people are a top priority for the Inspire Foundation.
“The biggest thing for us is to make sure if a young person is going through a tough time they can access us on their phone or computer at any time and we have the right resources for them,” he said.
“This generation has really grown up with internet services like Reach Out and we invest a lot of our resources for ReachOut.com in things like Facebook where young people are and engage in that.”
ReachOut.com’s goal is to reduce the stigma associated with the illness, increase help seeking knowledge and behaviour and reduce isolation by increasing social connectedness.
“It is not just a website, I like to think of it as a journey,” ReachOut.com youth ambassador Stacey said.
“I felt safe enough to explore the issues I faced,” she said.
Mr Nicholas believes the anonymous nature of online services makes young people feel secure and safe in an environment familiar to them.
“There are a number of additional benefits associated with e-mental health service delivery, including the fact that they are time and cost efficient, potentially anonymous and available 24 hours a day,” he said.
Mr Butler also said that the major advantage of e-mental health services for those who do not require a clinician is “convenience”.
“People can access services from home and there is no need to take time off work or other commitments,” he said.
50 per cent of ReachOut.com’s unique visits take place after 5 pm and before 9 am, indicating that ReachOut.com is supporting young people during the hours when most face to face services have closed their doors.
“The day I came across ReachOut.com I was searching for a way to end my life. ‘Suicide quick and easy’ were the three words I typed hoping I could find my exit from this world. Amongst my search results I found ReachOut.com,” Stacey said.
The government's National Broadband Network (NBN) will aid in a growing online audience with increasingly faster online speeds and a greater range of services, which will in turn support new online treatment.
“The big change we expect to see with the NBN is that it will enable a much richer level of interactivity and more personalization of services which will deliver better health outcome,” Mr Nicholas said.
With the NBN in place the government has allocated approximately $20 million from 2011-14 to the establishment of a Virtual Clinic.
The Virtual Clinic will provide free real-time online counseling or phone counseling with a trained counselor to give accessible and affordable alternatives and services to suffering Australians.
“Today when I go to sleep I no longer wish that I will not wake up, in fact I am excited at what the next day will bring,” Stacey said.
For more information on Mind Health Connect, head to http://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au/
To read more about Reach Out, go to http://au.reachout.com/
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