A recently published study found a marked increase in the number of Australians and New Zealanders turning to digital services for mental health support during the pandemic.
The study looked at the uptake of two online cognitive behavioural therapy services – This Way UP in Australia and Just a Thought in New Zealand. Both companies undertook the research.
WHY IT MATTERS
There was a significant increase in use of both services post-COVID-19. In the three months prior to the pandemic, 2806 people registered for a This Way UP course and 1907 people registered for a Just a Thought course. During the first three months of the pandemic, 21,872 and 5442 registered for a This Way UP and Just a Thought course, respectively.
Use of the Just a Thought service was more pronounced in the three months following the COVID-19 outbreak, compared to three months before:
- Website views increased from 22,937 to 167,972
- Course registrations increased from 1907 to 5442
- Clinician registrations increased from 181 to 441
- Course prescriptions increased from 480 to 794
The study also found limited evidence of elevated anxiety and depressive symptoms severity during the COVID-19 period.
THE LARGER TREND
The pandemic catalysed the uptake of digital mental health services and increasingly, digitally enabled treatments are seen as alternatives to conventional methods of treating mental health conditions.
The University of Sydney received a grant in July to try out a new model of youth mental health care that is more personalised and digitally enabled. In 2020, the rates of psychological distress were elevated among Australian youth, with one in three of over 1,000 surveyed reporting “high” or “very high” levels of distress, according to reseach by government non-profit headspace. The survey, conducted between May and June last year, found that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the ability of young people aged 12-25 to carry out daily activities.
In South Korea, the Ministry of Science and Information and Communications Technology is planning a 30 billion won ($26.2 million) investment in a research programme to develop digital treatments for depression.
ON THE RECORD
“We are only beginning to move towards realising the potential digital health services provide in greatly increasing access to mental health support and evidence-based treatments, delivering preventative support, and community-led innovation,” said Anna Elders, Chair of New Zealand Health IT’s eMental Health Industry Group and Just a Thought’s Clinical Lead.
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