A research project to explore how online therapy can be better used by people with severe mental illness has been awarded $1,966,610 by the Victorian Minister for Mental Health, the Hon Mary Wooldridge MP.
Led by Professor Michael Kyrios and Dr Neil Thomas from Swinburne University of Technology, the project will look at how online, multimedia based therapy can be more routinely used by patients, carers and mental health workers as a core part of treatment.
“The project will focus strongly on how this can help people with severe mental illness develop skills to effectively manage their own illness and test the benefits of this approach in achieving improved health and social outcomes,” Professor Kyrios said.
A single portal will be developed for mental health workers, consumers and carers for use across hospital-based and non-government sectors in Victoria.
It will include material such as videos featuring people discussing their experiences focusing on illness self-management and personal recovery.
“In the developed world, the burden of mental health disorders is now overtaking that of physical health disorders,” Professor Kyrios said.
“Swinburne has world class expertise in translating psychological knowledge into practical applications. An example is our e-Therapy group which leads the world in the development and dissemination of on-line treatments for mental health disorders.”
Professor Kyrios said online therapy offers an effective, safe and acceptable form of mental health treatment.
“There are numerous benefits to mental health sufferers, including contact with a therapist at their own convenience, reduced cost compared to face-to-face therapy, increased anonymity and accessibility for isolated or stigmatised groups,” he said.
Swinburne has a suite of e-therapy programs – offered through the National eTherapy Centre’s Anxiety Online initiative – that provide early intervention and treatment for disorders such as anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder via the internet with or without human support.
The university is partnering with the Mental Illness Fellowship of Victoria, Mind Australia, Alfred Health, Melbourne Health and St Vincent’s Mental Health to conduct this project.