Black Dog to launch digital mental health program

A WORLD-first program designed to develop and deliver effective mental health programs will be launched in Sydney today.

The Digital Dog, which will be launch at the Black Dog Institute, will use technology such as apps, social media, online gaming and Smartphone sensors.

Statistics show that less than half of all Australians reporting the symptoms of mental illness seek formal treatment.

Despite increased investment and strong evidence showing prevention and intervention save lives, factors like geography, stigma and social circumstance make it hard for people to get help.

According to Black Dog Institute Director Professor Helen Christensen it is about being on the front foot, rather than waiting for people to act.

"Research has firmly established that evidence-based digital mental health programs can provide immediate access to effective mental health programs anywhere in Australia," Prof Christensen said.

"The additional benefits of cost effectiveness, privacy and tailoring means they are particularly helpful for high risk groups such as men, young people and those living in regional, rural and remote areas.

"The Digital Dog program has been established to translate everything we know about mental health into usable, engaging and accessible digital programs that will significantly reduce rates of mental illness and suicide

"Our work will not only give us new ways of identifying and addressing poor mental health in real time, we will also be reducing health costs and leading the world in cutting-edge health technologies."

The Digital Dog will utilise five main forms of attack:

 Social media - Using twitter, facebook and blogs to identify suicide risk, improve social connections and deliver immediate interventions as they are required.

 Smartphones - Use of sensors such as Bluetooth to measure social withdrawal and encourage help-seeking before a crisis situation.

 Apps - Downloadable technology to deliver tailored prevention or screening programs

 Online games - Specifically aiming to reduce risk amongst Australian high school students

 Interactive self-help-Delivering evidence-based psychological treatment to whoever needs it.

For more information go to http://www.digitaldog.org.au



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