February 26, 2024

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SA’s online mental health lifeline gets funding boost

While current circumstances highlight the issues, the fact is, the demand for mental health services has been on the rise in Australia.

Recognising the huge need for improved access to mental health support, especially for isolated communities, Masonic Charities has made a $650,000 commitment to support a research partnership between the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide, to develop an interactive, online well being tool to help people with practical, evidence-based strategies to manage stress, adapt to change and strengthen their mental health and well being.

The new online tool builds on the successful ifarmwell initiative developed by Clinical Psychologist and UniSA Research Fellow, Department of Rural Health, Dr Kate Gunn with Professor Deborah Turnbull from the Freemasons Centre for Male Health and Well-being at the University of Adelaide, and is aimed at reaching out to people early, to strengthen coping mechanisms.

The team’s work has shown that there is a real need for a tool that GPs and other health professionals are confident to refer to their patients when the first signs of depression and stress appear.

“We know that for many people it is difficult to raise the idea that you may not be coping well and need some help, so we want to develop a practical self-help tool that avoids that stigma and pathologising language and helps to give them hope and build resilience,” Dr Gunn stated.

“The initiative will help us to reach out to people who experience delays in being able to access counselling.”

The economic cost of mental illness in Australia is $500 million per day, which includes the direct cost of mental health services and indirect costs, such as lost productivity, reduced health, and life expectancy.

Only one-third of people experiencing mental disorders will access traditional, face-to-face mental health services.

Research shows that when people do seek help, 71 per cent will consult their GP in the first instance, but with waiting lists of two to six months for referred appointments with a psychologist, there is a real need for strategies to support self-care.

The goal of this project is to improve every Australian’s access to timely, free, psychological support and self-help strategies, at an early stage to build resilience against developing more serious mental health problems.

In partnership with GPs, consumers and key stakeholders, we hope to reduce the risk of unnecessary suffering from what is treatable distress.

The online initiative will ensure time-pressured GPs are better equipped to help their patients tackle mental health issues and will go some way to bridging the gaps between Australians accessing primary care and mental health services.

The new web-based support will personalise content to make it more relevant to users and it will be developed with consumer and stakeholder input.

The UniSA Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise say the partnership with Masonic Charities to develop the new online mental health tool is a perfect example of research and community collaboration to build stronger societies.

This project delivers on a shared goal to make a tangible difference in our world. Having identified a need for a tailored resource that can effectively engage Australians facing a diverse range of stressors, life circumstances and mental health issues, the team will be working together to deliver a solution.


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