One in 13 Australian children aged 11 to 17 suffers from major depression. Yet up to 70 per cent of people reporting symptoms of depression will not seek treatment, a factor contributing to Australia's rising suicide rate.
The stigma that persists around mental illness, the cost and availability of services, and difficulty scheduling appointments around busy lives can be barriers to getting the necessary treatment.
That's why smartphones, laptops and tablets can be a lifeline; with a new study providing evidence that clinically developed online psychological therapy is effective in treating depression.
The international meta-analysis, published in JAMA Psychiatry, examined more than a dozen trials involving almost 3900 participants, finding self-guided online cognitive behavioural therapy "can provide treatment access at low cost to large numbers of individuals worldwide".
Professor Helen Christensen, director of the Black Dog Institute and a co-author of the study, said the findings could not be ignored by health bodies.
"Our government and clinical organisations urgently need to start recommending these programs, and providing them with the same support and infrastructure as other medical treatments," Professor Christensen said.
"People think you have to do things face to face in order for it to be an effective outcome. This research clearly shows that self-guided, online psychological therapy is effective for most people experiencing depression, regardless of severity or background."
The easy access and privacy of e-mental health services make them particularly valuable for groups that may otherwise be unwilling or unable to seek treatment, such as young people, some men, and those living in rural and regional areas.
"They can undertake treatment where and when they feel most comfortable, and programs can be easily supported by a local GP as well as mental health practitioners," Professor Christensen said. "Consumers like the choice of being able to help themselves."
The national depression initiative beyondblue, which has just named former prime minister Julia Gillard as its next chair, wants e-mental health to become a core component of Australia's mental health service system.
Professor Christensen said e-mental health programs were "widely available and have been proven to significantly reduce depression and anxiety symptoms", but the health system was not designed to cater for them.
"Changing the structure of how they are offered within general practice, so it's built into the workflow of the organisation, is a key element," she said.
For more information we recommend speaking to a healthcare professional, including your GP or psychologist.
If you do need help, you can also call one of the following helplines:
Lifeline 131 114
MensLine 1300 789 978
beyondblue 1300 224 636
Sourced from Sydney Morning Herald in Health News
27 Mar 2017