Black Dog launches online suicide prevention trial

The Black Dog Institute is running a trial of an online intervention for people experiencing suicidal thoughts that can be accessed at all hours.

The trial involves a six-week program to study the effectiveness of the intervention compared to a different program. Online self-help programs have been shown to be effective in helping manage anxiety and depression, but this is one of the first in the world to look at whether they are also effective in helping manage suicidal ideation.

The Healthy Thinking trial is currently recruiting adults between the ages of 18 and 64 who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. The trial will begin this month.

The program was originally developed by researchers at the Department of Clinical Psychology at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands and uses cognitive behavioural therapy techniques. One of those researchers, Bregje van Spijker, has completed postdoctoral research at the Black Dog Institute and is now a research fellow at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University.

Black Dog Institute executive director Helen Christensen said the Healthy Thinking program has been designed to circumvent the issues of stigma that often stop people from seeking face-to-face help.

“We know that many people are reluctant to acknowledge their thoughts of suicide,” Professor Christensen said in a statement.

“The ‘Healthy Thinking’ trial is offering people a confidential self-help service that can be accessed 24/7 by anyone with internet access.”

Launched to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day yesterday, the aims of the trial are backed up by a new report sponsored by Lifeline Australia. Lifeline chairman John Brogden said the results showed a growing preference among consumers to use the internet when seeking help during times of crisis.

“Internet technology is a smart solution for suicide prevention," Mr Brogden said. “Lifeline was using leading edge technology when it started a telephone crisis line in Australia 50 years ago and it is now using the internet to make the same offer of help to save lives.”

Professor Christensen told ABC Radio that around 60 per cent of people who make a suicide attempt don't have contact with a medical professional.

“So looking at what people say they'd like, a lot of people prefer an anonymous service where they can get immediate help,” she said.

“Online, automated interventions can be as effective as face-to-face psychological treatment for anxiety and depression. [O]nline therapies are now accepted by many, many people, particularly those in rural and remote areas or for those who want to treat themselves anonymously.”

Professor Christensen recently won a major NHMRC fellowship worth $3.75 million to develop eHealth technologies to bridge translation gaps in mental health.

The organisers emphasise that Healthy Thoughts is not a crisis service. Anyone in suicidal crisis is encouraged to seek help at Lifeline 13 11 14, Suicide Call back Service 1300 659 467 or their GP.

Posted in Allied Health

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