In Summary

  • The ORBIT online research program to help those with bipolar has launched
  • Received over $1 million in funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council in 2015
  • Users have access to interactive exercises, video content, a forum and an online coach

A world-first online service designed by Swinburne researchers to help those with bipolar has launched.

The research program and online service, named ORBIT, received over $1 million in funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council in November 2015, and it has now begun an official roll-out with participants from around Australia and the world. 

Professor Greg Murray, a psychology research leader from Swinburne and Chief Investigator for ORBIT, says the study is one of the largest of its kind and that it targets those who have experienced numerous episodes of illness. 

“Research has shown that many people with late-stage bipolar don’t respond as well to common therapies used in treatment,” he says.

“The ultimate aim of ORBIT is to help people cope with their bipolar disorder.

“To carry that problem better, and to end up with better quality of life.”

Comparing interventions

ORBIT compares two, five-week, online interventions designed to improve quality of life for people who experience bipolar disorder.

The interventions, which have been developed over the past 18 months, have been created by an international team of researchers, clinicians and consumers and include videos, exercises, tools, forums and access to an online coach.

The programs have been designed as brief self-help programs, to be completed online, while participants continue with their usual mental health treatment plans.  

Maree Tambasco-Roche is a visual artist and a mental health advocate living in Castlemaine, Victoria who helped trial the program in its early stages.

“The ORBIT project is different because it is inclusive,” she says.

“It validates and authentically acknowledges the challenges people with bipolar face, without addressing them as less than.

“It also provides resources and tools to live a better quality of life through support and reciprocity.”

Maree Tambasco-Roche headshot

Taking charge

Ms Tambasco-Roche believes the program is “empowering.”

She described the website as easy to use and particularly engaged with the video material.

“The authentic videos of people with lived experiences of bipolar disorder makes the information relevant and engaging.

“It is non-judgmental which I think is one of the keys to success and it allows the person to drive and make their own decisions. This contributes to accountability and a sense of control in one's life which is invaluable.”

The ORBIT project was developed by Swinburne University of Technology in close collaboration with participants as well as Crest.BD, University of British Columbia, Lancaster University, University of California, Australian National University, Deakin University, Western Sydney University and University of Melbourne.

People between the ages of 18 - 65 who have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder are invited to participate in the project.

For further information or to sign up for ORBIT, see: ORBIT Research Program website