Mental health experts say people living in remote, regional and rural parts of Australia are more vulnerable to mental health problems because of poor socio-economic conditions and a lack of accessible services.
The Mental Health Commission’s chief executive David Butt said bad housing, high unemployment and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease all add up to increased levels of psychological distress.
“Access to health services, access to employment, education, all the other things that enable you to have a contributing life are really much lower,” he said.
Mr Butt and other mental health experts have said one solution to the accessibility gap is online treatment programs, otherwise known as E-mental health.
“We need to look at E-mental health as part of an overall treatment plan, not something separate. You’ll never have all the blocks and mortar in place to treat people face to face,” Mr Butt said.
Australia is the leader in creating programs such as online chat rooms and connectivity to practitioners, online questionnaires, mood trackers and interactive, educational programs.
The online treatment is based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is designed to change negative patterns of thinking.
Mr Butt said evidence shows online programs are just as effective as face-to-face CBT.
“It’s certainly more effective than putting people on medications, particularly in the mild to moderate category of anxiety or depression,” he said.
“Drugs have shown to not really be that effective with that group, where as CBT online has shown to be much more effective.”
But delegates at the National Rural Health Conference in Darwin, who are also on-the-ground mental health workers, have said online therapy needs to be used in conjunction with traditional methods, medication and practitioners that are community or locally based.
Mr Butt agreed and said the next stage is ensuring an integrated roll-out, along with technological infrastructure in the remote areas.
Federal Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash said the Government is considering how to support E-mental health as part of its aim to plug the accessibility gap in remote Australia.
To read the full article entitled Online chat rooms could be future of remote mental health, experts says please click here.
7th Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium looks forward to welcoming David Butt as a Keynote speaker at Novotel Forest Resort Creswick Victoria 26-28 October 2015. To view all of the Keynote Speakers for the Symposium as well as their bios, please click here.