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Digital & Innovation

Experts call for enhanced use of digital solutions to tackle Australia’s mental health crisis

Health Industry Hub | August 18, 2021 |
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Digital & Innovation: Clinicians, patients and seven-time world surfing and wellness champion, Layne Beachley AO, are joining forces today to urge all Australians to take care of their mental health, with new data revealing less than one-in-six people with psychological distress are seeking professional help.

Having recently battled a slew of natural disasters, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our population is facing a mental health crisis, with reports of rising psychological distress among Australians facing, and previously free from, mental health issues.

Their urgent plea aims to reinforce the critical need for innovative digital solutions to ensure every Australian has timely and affordable access to professional mental health support, no matter what their situation, location or socio-economic status.

According to Intensive Care Specialist at Northern Beaches Hospital, and CEO and Founder of virtual mental health clinic, My Mirror, Dr Matthew Zoeller, there are still many substantial barriers to overcome to enable Australians to gain access to professional mental health services.

“Despite the extensive work still underway to address the misconceptions surrounding mental health, the ongoing stigma associated with seeking and receiving mental health support poses a major obstacle for many Australians in psychological distress.

“However, stigma is just one of many challenges facing those affected. Time, cost and geographical location are also severely compromising Australians’ access to mental health support. This is especially true for those living in regional and remote areas, who may be required to travel to major cities or towns to access professional mental healthcare,” said Dr Zoeller.

“It is therefore crucial that we identify an immediate solution to address this ongoing crisis, and adapt our currently inadequate mental healthcare system.

“Innovative, ‘tele-tech’ models of care combine secure online platforms with next-generation videoconferencing technologies, to provide entirely virtual support. Improved uptake of these digital healthcare models is key to overcoming these barriers, to ensure all Australians can access professional mental health support, when, and where they need it,” Dr Zoeller stated.

Dr Zoeller founded My Mirror – an Australian, digital mental health clinic that strives to normalise the process of talking to a mental healthcare professional. My Mirror is the professional psychology partner to Layne’s Awake Academy – an Australian, online portal comprising a series of wellness courses.

“As a mental wellness champion, I’ve had my share of mental health-related issues. I’ve survived depression and serious injuries that formed part of the emotional roller-coaster that was my 19-year-long professional surfing career. Mental health care requires a holistic approach, including the development of a strong support network, and professional psychological care,” said Layne.

The organisation told Health Industry Hub that My mirror has an extensive network of individually recruited and registered clinical and general psychologists, who are telehealth trained across the My Mirror digital platform, to deliver a professional (evidence-based), clinically governed, and technologically seamless service.

Each individual patient has ownership of, and access to, their digital portal indefinitely, including session information, education and resource tools, plus assessment tracking over time – enabling a tailored journey and outcome for each individual, with their end point in mind, and not just the clinician’s. Such functionality could prove useful in encouraging progress between sessions, and improving compliance and continuity of care.

“I’m partnering with My Mirror because it combines innovation with the professional expertise required to change the way Australians engage with psychological support,” Layne added.

Chief Psychologist and co-Founder of My Mirror, Ms Kate Blundell, Sydney, emphasises there is no one-size-fits-all approach to effectively managing mental health.

“Each person has a unique set of needs and circumstances, which may evolve over time. We must therefore, be able to tailor mental health services to meet today’s societal and behavioural conditions,” said Ms Blundell.

“We recognise that our current environment has put growing pressures on face-to-face psychological services, resulting in increased waiting times. It is important to recognise the quality and access that the digital mental health space can now provide.

“Wherever you are in your personal journey – if you’re a new parent, or juggling kids at home, if you’re overwhelmed at work, or feeling unusually anxious during lockdown, please reach out now for support,” Ms Blundell said.

“Consider that there is now the option to speak to an accredited psychologist virtually, from the comfort of your home, at a time convenient to you, regardless of your situation, location or socioeconomic status.”

Access to support from an accredited psychologist for those in psychological distress who do not require emergency care can be limited outside of business hours. ‘Tele-tech’ models of mental health care have the potential to transform how and when this level of care can be delivered. For example, through the My Mirror virtual clinic, patients can access consultations with accredited psychologists 21 hours a day, 7 days a week, helping to ensure availability whenever it is required or convenient to the patient.

Recent data revealed around 20% of Australians reported experiencing high, or very high levels of psychological distress in 2020/21, representing a significant increase from 13% in 2017-18.

Younger Australians (aged 18 – 34 years) are also in distress, with almost one in three reporting high, or very high levels of psychological distress, compared to 18 per cent, and 10% of those aged 35 – 64, and 65+, respectively.

When developing the My Mirror platform, a critical focus was to ensure data privacy and security through functions such as end-to-end encryption, onshore storage and adherence to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) data protection standards, to provide patients with the confidence that their personal information would be secure.


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