e-Mental health refers to services targeting mental health problems that are delivered through online and mobile interactive websites, apps, sensor-based monitoring devices, computers and phones. The Black Dog Institute aims to reform and improve the detection, treatment and delivery of e-mental health tools and programs.
Led by Professor Helen Christensen, researchers at Black Dog are utilising e-mental health to detect mental health symptoms, develop interventions for common mental health disorders, and deliver novel programs in a community setting.
Why e-mental health?
The Black Dog Institute is a leader in the area of e-mental health research developing interventions to lower depression, lower suicide risk and promote wellbeing. It is known that about two-thirds of people with a mental illness do not seek help. Despite increased investment and strong evidence showing that prevention and intervention saves lives, factors like geography, stigma and social circumstances make it hard for people to get help.
e-Mental health represents programs that target common mental health problems delivered through online and mobile interactive websites, apps and computers, as well as telephone and online crisis support lines. Mobile phones can also be used to collect individual data on risk factors, and thus offer for the first time the potential to collect individual data, detect mental health symptoms, and develop personalised, tailored programs delivered universally.
e-Mental health services are an effective and complementary sector to traditional face-to-face mental health services. By providing accessible and anonymous prevention the Internet can play an important role in overcoming obstacles for seeking help.
The e-mental health team is working on a range of projects in detection, treatment and delivery.
The use of social media and mobile data for mental health potentially raises new ethical questions. This project considers applied ethics in the Black Dog Institute’s current research program regarding these applications and uses of technology.
The GoodNight Trial used SHUTi, an internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy intervention for insomnia, to determine whether depression could be prevented in those with concurrent subclinical depression symptoms and insomnia.
The Living Lab project aims to establish an online hub that provides a virtual laboratory where health care users, practitioners, and researchers can exchange information and ideas with the aim of improving the prevention and treatment of mental illness.
The objective of ImpleMentAll is to develop a toolkit for tailored implementation of evidence-based digital interventions, evaluate its impact across sites, and make it available in a variety of contexts.
This project aims to adapt an evidence-based workplace mental health program titled RESPECT for high school Year Advisors and test it among this group.
We are currently conducting a study to determine whether the social activity patterns detected by the Socialise app can be used to accurately detect mental health conditions.
The SpringboarD project examines whether an online self-help tool can help people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes lead more active, healthier and happier lives.
This project is investigating the feasibility, clinical changes, and cost-effectiveness associated with implementing a stepped-care mental health service in two Australian primary health networks.
Ground Truth Trial: social media and machine learning
In this study, the research team will profile users’ mental health by harnessing novel machine learning based analyses of social media conversations. Features that capture depression levels will be determined by correlating ‘ground truth’ depression measures with data-up indicators derived from machine learning using members of depression online communities. Outcomes of the study will include greater understanding of actual, real-time ‘descent’ into illness state – something unachievable using conventional survey methods – and the development of predictive systems capable of driving decisions concerning the provision of support for mental illness through social media, and the provision of alerts to individuals, carers and medical practitioners.
SpringboarD: A new approach to building wellbeing for people with type 2 diabetes
Diabetes can affect your mood and leave you feeling stressed and ‘burnt out’ from time-to-time. The SpringboarD project aims to learn whether an online self-help tool can help people with type 2 diabetes learn ways to care for their emotional wellbeing and live more active and healthier lives.
Healthy Thinking Trial: targeting suicidal thoughts
Suicide is the most common cause of death in Australians aged 15-44 and the tenth most common cause of death overall for Australian males. However, many people with suicidal thoughts are reluctant to seek help. The Healthy Thinking trial aims to test the effectiveness of a web-based self-help program for people with suicidal thoughts. The major aim of this study is to determine whether an evidence-based web-based self-help program reduces levels of suicidal thoughts.
A positive psychology app: SPARK is a mobile phone application which identifies people’s values, describes them, and then provides steps to improve one’s life to be consistent with those values. The SPARK positive psychology mobile application, currently in development, will provide easy access to evidence-based techniques and peer encouragement for people experiencing physical and/or psychological symptoms, which lead to psychological distress, social isolation and depression. The tool will help them build their resilience, increase wellbeing, deepen social connections and ultimately transform their lives.
RAFT (Reconnecting AFTer a Suicide Attempt)
The first few days following hospital release after a suicide attempt or deliberate self-harm are critical. However, one third of people presenting to hospital following a suicide attempt will receive no mental health follow up. Research has found that brief contact with patients discharged from hospital, through things like a postcard, letter or phone call, are effective in reducing suicidal behaviour including intentional self-harm or repeated attempts. Some research has seen brief interventions reduce the number of suicide re-attempts by around 50%. However, whether getting in contact with patients using digital communication has yet to be tested. RAFT (Reconnecting AFTer a Suicide Attempt), is assessing whether receiving text messages, is a feasible and effective method to reduce the rate of suicide and self-harm in individuals with a recent hospital-treated episode of deliberate self-harm.
iBobbly is a trial of the world’s first suicide prevention app designed especially for use by Indigenous people on mobile phones or tablet devices. Called iBobbly (a name derived from a Kimberley greeting), the app delivers treatment-based therapy in a culturally relevant way. Based on psychological therapies proven to reduce suicidal thoughts, it draws heavily on Indigenous metaphors, images and stories drawn from local Aboriginal artists and performers. The app format leaps two of the major hurdles to help seeking – perceived stigma and geographical isolation.
The Black Dog Institute offers a suite of e-mental health programs and apps now publicly available following on for research trials. The Institute has also produced a number of policy documents relating to the use and delivery of e-mental health:
Black Dog Snapshot
The Black Dog Snapshot mobile phone app is designed to help you to keep track of your mental wellbeing. Designed by researchers at the Black Dog Institute for use among Australian adults, Snapshot is a confidential, password-protected tool that enables you to measure and monitor your mental health and wellbeing.
myCompass is a fully automated, interactive self-help program that is delivered via the Internet to people’s computers, mobile phones and tablet devices. The program provides people experiencing mild-to-moderate symptoms of stress, anxiety and/or depression, with 24/7 access to a private, personalised and evidence-based treatment program.
BITE BACK is the very first online positive psychology program aimed at improving the overall wellbeing and happiness of young Australians between the ages of 12 and 18 years. The key objectives of this program are to encourage young people to become more engaged in all aspects of their lives and, ultimately, to build resilience.
The Institute has also produced a number of policy documents relating to the use and delivery of e-mental health: