eMental health strategy launched through consumer portal

The federal government has launched a new eMental health portal for consumers called Mindhealthconnect to access a range of information and support services on anxiety and depressive disorders.

Part of an overall eMental health strategy, the portal will be boosted by a range of resources for practitioners later this year, including access to online training and development programs, evidence-based practice and clinician-assisted online treatment.

It provides a link to Beyond Blue's directory of mental and allied health practitioners, which allows general practitioners with postgraduate accredited mental health training to listed their services, along with clinical psychologists, occupational therapists in mental health, social workers and mental health nurses.

Part of the strategy includes the development of a $20 million “virtual clinic” to provide real-time online counselling or phone counselling with a trained cognitive behavioural therapist.

The government said the virtual clinic will be delivered by a provider through a select open tender process and will commence in the second half of this year.

“The Virtual Clinic will provide a stepped care approach which allows an individual to begin therapy with the Virtual Clinic and be referred to other mental health care services if needed,” the strategy states. “The Virtual Clinic will provide free counselling, at an arranged time and it will allow consumers to work with the same counsellor if they wish.”

The strategy states that the clinic will be designed to help those with mild to moderate depression or anxiety, and it is anticipated that people using the service will require three to five sessions. The government expects the virtual clinic will have the capacity to respond to up to 50,000 people over five years at the current level of funding.

“Evidence backs the use of online and telephone services to assist those suffering mild to moderate mental disorders and distress, and it can also help combat barriers to conventional therapy,” the Minister for Mental Health, Mark Butler, said in a statement.

He said further services and information to be implemented later in the year include the virtual clinic, information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and information on alcohol and other drugs, eating disorders and other severe mental illnesses.

Mr Butler said one of the reasons for developing an online repository of information and services for consumers was that despite warnings against using search engines for health information, four in five people use the internet for information about their health and around 50 per cent of Australians use the internet to diagnose a health condition.

“Doctors caution that people should not use the internet solely for health information or diagnosis,” Mr Butler said. “Whilst people should be cautious about using the internet to diagnose medical conditions, the reality is that more people will use the web for health information in the future, not less.

“The local GP down the street will always be the backbone of the Australian health system but modern life requires modern solutions.

“The internet has changed the way we shop, the way we work and it is quickly changing the way we manage our health. Mindhealthconnect will revolutionise the way we get mental health services to those who need help.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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