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InPsych 2016 | Vol 38

Psychology in current issues

Psych online…

Psych online showcases mental health and wellbeing apps and online sites to assist APS psychologists in maintaining up-to-date knowledge of online mental health and wellbeing services.

Improving mental wellbeing using a public health program

The program: myCompass
Developer: Black Dog Institute
Web address: www.mycompass.org.au

Given the high prevalence of depression and anxiety in Australia, the need for effective public health programs which focus on mental health has been highlighted. The Black Dog Institute, with funding by the Commonwealth Department of Health, has developed one such program titled myCompass.

myCompass is an interactive, self-guided, web-based program which helps people with mild-to-moderate levels of depression, anxiety or stress self-manage their symptoms. The myCompass program is grounded in cognitive behavioural therapy and incorporates elements of problem solving therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and positive psychology.

Features of myCompass include:

  • Symptom tracking: The program allows real-time self-monitoring of problem moods, thoughts and behaviours. Reminders to track one’s symptoms can be scheduled by the user and sent via email or SMS, together with motivational messages.
  • Feedback: Graphical feedback is presented to users to help them identify triggers and look for patterns in their moods and behaviour.
  • Psychoeducational modules: Twelve skill-building modules (e.g., managing fear and anxiety) are included as part of the program. Each module comprises three 10-minute sessions to help users learn new techniques for managing their moods and behaviour.
  • Access to resources: A comprehensive resource library providing links to useful websites, fact sheets and community supports.

Research has shown myCompass to be an effective program which significantly reduces symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, and improves work and social functioning in individuals with mild-to-moderate mental health symptoms1.

  1. Proudfoot, J., Clarke, J., Birch, M.-R., Whitton, A. E., Parker, G., Manicavasagar, V., . . . Hadzi-Pavlovic, D. (2013). Impact of a mobile phone and web program on symptom and functional outcomes for people with mild-to-moderate depression, anxiety and stress: a randomised controlled trial. BMC Psychiatry, 13(1), 1-12. doi: 10.1186/1471-244x-13-312

Managing stress through mindfulness meditation

The program: Smiling Mind
Developer: Smiling Mind
Web address: www.smilingmind.com.au/smiling-mind-app/

Mindfulness meditation is a technique that can be used by people of all ages to help them manage the stresses and challenges of daily life. Smiling Mind is a web and app-based mindfulness meditation program which aims to increase people’s wellbeing and bring balance to their lives.

Smiling Mind offers a number of guided meditation programs which have been specifically tailored for the following age-groups:

  • 7–9 years, 13–15 years
  • 10–12 years, 16–18 years, Adults

Each program contains multiple modules (e.g., exploring the breath) which help people address a range of issues including stress management, relationship building, increasing resilience, and improving communication skills. Furthermore, distinct programs have been developed for use in particular environments, including classrooms and workplaces.

The Smiling Mind app can measure a person’s progress and skills, and daily meditation reminders can be scheduled. As a user moves through the modules the sessions become more advanced to match the user’s increasing skillset.

Suicide safety planning

The program: BeyondNow
Developer: Beyondblue and Monash University
Web address: www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/beyondnow-suicide-safety-planning

Suicide safety plans can play an important role in managing and reducing suicide risk. BeyondNow is a safety planning app and website developed by beyondblue and Monash University (with funding by Movember) which provides people with a platform to create a personalised safety plan which is readily accessible.

The BeyondNow app enables users to:

  • Develop a list of warning signs
  • Outline reasons for living
  • Think about how to make their environment safer
  • Plan enjoyable activities to distract themselves from suicidal thoughts
  • Identify people in their social network they can talk to for help
  • Access contact information for Australian crisis support services, as well as other relevant organisations/health professionals.

The BeyondNow app and website also includes a sharing function which allows users to email a copy of their safety plan to people in their support network. BeyondNow can be downloaded free of charge from iTunes and Google Play.

Find more mental health apps and online resources?

ReachOut.com has developed a Toolbox which highlights a range of health and wellbeing apps endorsed by health professionals.

References

Disclaimer: Published in InPsych on October 2016. The APS aims to ensure that information published in InPsych is current and accurate at the time of publication. Changes after publication may affect the accuracy of this information. Readers are responsible for ascertaining the currency and completeness of information they rely on, which is particularly important for government initiatives, legislation or best-practice principles which are open to amendment. The information provided in InPsych does not replace obtaining appropriate professional and/or legal advice.