Mental illness is a national health priority. One in five Australians experience a mental illness every year and depression is the leading cause of disability in the nation. However, the majority of Australians with a mental disorder do not seek help for their problems. There are a number of barriers to help seeking for mental illness. These include stigma, a preference for self-reliance and a lack of access to services. In addition, those who do receive help are often left without support during the recovery period.
One means of addressing these barriers is to deliver online self-help programs to reduce prevent and treat mental illness and to provide support to those recovering from it.
The National Institute for Mental Health Research has pioneered the development and evaluation of effective online self-help methods for tackling depression and anxiety. Its suite of programs can be found at ehub.anu.edu.au. These programs provide free, accessible and anonymous services to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The Institute’s e-mental health research and development Unit (E-hub) undertakes collaborative research on these programs with institutions as diverse as Yale University and NHS Choices and in a large number of countries including the UK, USA, Canada, China, Norway, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. New collaborations are about to commence with Germany and Finland. E-hub is also now part of the Young & Well CRC and is charged with developing and evaluating the effectiveness of a virtual clinic that will provide e-mental health services to young people. Other ongoing work includes an e-mental health workplace program, e-programs designed to increase help seeking and a study of the effectiveness of ehub’s online support group BlueBoard.