Melbourne researchers are at the forefront of examining ways to use technology within services, and are about to launch a major digital technology program in Victoria’s specialist mental health services.
The recent National Mental Health Commission review has highlighted that the future of mental health services involves the integration of digital technology with face-to-face mental health services.
Led by Dr Neil Thomas, Director of the National e-Therapy Centre at Swinburne University of Technology, the Self-Management and Recovery Technology (SMART) research program is one of five major research programs to promote recovery in serious mental illness, funded by the Victorian Department of Health.
“One of the recommendations highlighted in the Commission’s report is using innovative technologies to help people to manage their own mental health problems and that’s exactly what our research is all about,” Dr Thomas said.
“The Internet provides a key means of empowering people in promoting their own recovery, as well as empowering mental health staff with the right tools to help their clients.”
Through consultation with mental health service users, workers and carers, researchers have developed an online resource for use on tablet computers during consultations in face-to-face services. Service users will also be able to access it independently at home or on a mobile phone.
The online resources include video stories of recovery by people who have been through their own journey of recovery.
Mr Mark David, a participant of the pilot study, has already experienced positive changes to his life.
“I was having trouble managing my illness and felt very much in a rut to the point I was spending days in bed sleeping, totally messed up and withdrawing from everyone”, Mr David said.
“I was referred to the SMART program and within a short time started to feel the positive effects of doing the program. I started feeling better about myself and life in general. I would recommend the SMART program to anyone with a need in this area.”
The SMART research program is running in partnership with the Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria, Alfred Health, Mind Australia, NorthWestern Mental Health, St Vincent’s Mental Health, and La Trobe and Deakin universities.
The program will officially be launched during Schizophrenia Awareness Week on Tuesday 5 May at 6pm. Register via www.smartinfo.org.au.