Back in 2001, Associate Professor Sonja March and her research team at the University of Southern Queensland saw that there were thousands of children in Australia who simply could not access evidence-based support, due to their location, long waiting lists, or the costs of therapy.
An online program was one way to potentially solve this problem.
Fast forward 17 years later, the BRAVE Self-Help online program has received positive feedback in reducing anxiety in young people. But like all mental health treatments, there are variations in individual success.
“Although young people enjoy using online mental health programs, some find it difficult to engage and improve in these programs without the help of a professional,” Sonja said.
“However, involving a professional in online treatment can be costly, and may not be needed for all young people.”
With a Mental Health Research Grant from Australian Rotary Health, Sonja and her research team will compare two versions of the BRAVE program, to see if they can make online programs work better for everyone.
One version will provide young people with support from a professional via videoconferencing throughout the entire program.
While in the other version, young people will start the program on their own, and will be ‘stepped-up’ to receive professional support half way through if they need it.
“This will let us test different ways of delivering online treatment, the costs of each, and whether we can provide the right support, to the right young people, at the right time.”
Like many, Sonja agrees that early intervention is crucial for our youth.
“If we can help young people manage their mental health effectively from a young age, we can potentially prevent much of the hardship they may face in adulthood.”
“By helping young people to develop effective anxiety management strategies, we can provide them with a toolbox from which to draw in future times of difficultly.”
Looking forward, Sonja is excited to identify and understand the best way to make online programs for youth anxiety, work for as many young people as possible.
“I would love to find ways of integrating new technologies, like virtual reality and interactive apps, into our programs to make them more exciting for people.”
“I would also like to find the best way of delivering our programs to families in hard to reach areas, where internet access is even an issue!”
This is the second grant Sonja has received from Australian Rotary Health, and she is thankful that with each new project, we learn more about the best ways to support young people and reduce the impact of mental ill health.
“Technology changes, children change, and we are dedicated to continue finding the best way to deliver quality services to Australian children.”
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