Mental Health problems are an increasingly common occurrence around the globe, costing the Australian economy alone a staggering $60 Billion dollars a year through things like absenteeism and lowered productivity. These issues can often remain untreated due to factors such as a lack of education about mental health, the ever prominent stigma surrounding illnesses and shortages of medical professionals.
Whilst many mental health issues are treated through talking therapy sessions where a patient sits down with psychologist and speaks about their problems, online self help programs and apps are showing much higher engagement levels among patients, particularly in schools.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few of these programs and how they’re helping:
Moodgym is an online interactive self-help book which helps people learn and practise skills which can help to prevent and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. Developed by researchers at the Australian National University, Moodgym focuses on cognitive behavioural therapy and offers patients information modules, interactive exercises, workbooks, anxiety and depression quizzes and downloadable relaxation audio. This is a perfect program to use for employers hoping to ensure a mentally safe working environment. It’s easy accessible all around the world, and of course is confidential.
Smiling Mind introduces users to the art of meditation and mindfulness. The app provides different types of sessions according to time constraints and age level and allows users a space to just zone out, relax and focus on their own mind for a while. Smiling Mind has had a profound impact on schools with over 1.5m students being exposed to these mindfulness sessions, helping to calm them down and focus in class. The overarching goal is to tackle mental issues before they develop and provide support in key community areas like workplaces and schools via meditation.
Sleep Ninja is currently being developed and trialled by the Black Dog Institute to examine whether the use of an app that provides a ‘lesson’ before bed and then tracks the sleep of the user can assist with the sleep patterns of teens. Many teenagers experience difficulties falling or staying asleep with most getting less than the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep each night. Once the app’s effectiveness is confirmed, Sleep Ninja will be promoted in schools and through other community outlets for young people. Clinicians at the Black Dog Institute predict that with only a moderate update of the program, as many as 40,000 fewer cases of depression will exist each year.
The statistics speak for themselves. 1 in 5 Australians suffer from mental health problems each year, with 75% of cases appearing before the age of 24.
These self help programs are making huge inroads in improving the mental health outlook of Australians, whether they be in the workplace, schools, or in everyday life. Whilst there’s a long way to go, it’s great to see program developers taking an active interest in the treatment of mental health issues.