Tag Archives: mental health online

Mental health support for graduates

Mental health issues affect one in every five Australians and accounted for 7.7% of total healthcare expenditure in Australia in 2015–2016.

The CRC for Mental Health works to reduce the burden of mental health by studying biomarkers: biological indicators that aid preventative treatment and early diagnosis of diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Postgraduate researchers at the CRC have developed a program to improve mental health issues in their fellow PhD students, with a focus on recognition and preventative action.

The Write Smarter: Feel Better program was informed by studies that suggest 50% of PhD students experience psychological distress during candidature. Few are likely to seek help.

“When we looked at the research, it was concerning that one in three [PhD students] will develop a mental health disorder during their candidature,” says PhD student and registered psychologist Karra Harrington, a co-developer of the program.

The program focuses on the importance of social connection. Monthly online meetings connect students from five different universities around Australia.

“Communication about mental health is paramount for overcoming stigma and supporting people to flourish,” says Harrington. Her background as a practising psychologist provided the drive to investigate practical processes for combatting the ‘PhD blues’.

Sabine Bird is another PhD student working with the CRC for Mental Health. “Feeling ‘stuck’ while writing is an experience every PhD student goes through,” she says. “If not dealt with, it easily leads to ongoing procrastination, a lack of progress and even a sense of failure.”

In working with the CRC, students recognise the importance of communication in maintaining good mental health, but also to convey their research to foster real-world outcomes.

Melanie Carew, Head of Education at the CRC, says they’ve been pleased with the mutually beneficial outcomes of the PhD program for the CRC and the participants.

“Our education program focuses on developing our students’ ability to think broadly about their research and the skills they have developed during their PhDs, then use them in different settings,” she says. “Write Smarter: Feel Better is a fantastic example of how our students can apply their scientific training and work collaboratively to solve problems.”

Recently, the program has been adopted by The University of Melbourne. It will be offered to all higher degree research students. Harrington attributes this success to their platform of communication with the CRC. “Communication of our research helped to highlight the value and benefits of Write Smarter: Feel Better for PhD students, their loved ones, PhD supervisors and universities or other research organisations such as CRCs.”

-Eliza Brockwell

Apps for youth mental health

Last month, the Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre (Young & Well CRC) launched Goalzie, a smartphone app designed to promote positive social networking for young people aged 12–17. The game-based app gets young people to set challenges for each other and help their friends achieve the set challenges. Consequences for not achieving these goals include things like washing the family car.

“Young people are far more likely to seek help if they feel supported by their peers and are in an environment which makes help-seeking normal,” says CEO of Young & Well CRC, Associate Professor Jane Burns.

Mental health disorders haven risen dramatically for this age group in the last 16 years, with a recent report showing a jump from 2.9% to 5.0% in major depressive disorders among 12–17-year-olds.

Tim Sloane, a teacher at a secondary school in Sydney, says that during his six years as a student year advisor dealing with student welfare issues, he encountered cases of anxiety, depression, bullying and low self-esteem.

At his school there are different strategies in place to support student mental health and wellbeing, including mentoring programs.

Sloane says the use of online youth mental health tools would be an effective way to help young people take control of their own mental wellbeing, particularly with issues they may find difficult to discuss.

School authorities are legally required to report any cases involving child or drug abuse to police and government authorities. While this mandatory reporting is intended to protect students, Sloane says it may create a hurdle to getting help, and online technologies can be beneficial to starting a dialogue.

National surveys conducted by Young & Well CRC with Beyond Blue, and by Mission Australia found that young people turn to technologies for answers or solutions, ahead of general practitioners, psychologists, teachers or chaplains, adds Burns.

“We think about online tools as support systems for early intervention for preventing mental illness,” says Burns.

Youth mental health online

The Young & Well CRC has launched a number of online campaigns and apps, addressing issues, from cyberbullying to healthy habits and managing day-to-day stress.

Apps for youth mental health
Goalzie smartphone app developed by Young & Well CRC

Created by PhD candidate Sally Bradford in collaboration with the Young & Well CRC, myAssessment is an app aimed at helping young people assess their own mental health, to reduce obstacles in getting appropriate treatment. Trials of this app at headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation, showed the app increased the rate of disclosure of sensitive issues to clinicians by up to 10 times.

Together with online youth help service ReachOut, the Young & Well CRC also launched the app NextStep earlier last month, which aims to connect young people with the right mental health support for their situation.

“We see technologies as part of a holistic support system of care, and we think that professions have been far too slow in recognising that this is an incredibly important resource and tool available to them,” says Burns.

Sue Min Liu