A new online program for high school students with anxiety and depression has been found to be effective, following a research trial funded by Australian Rotary Health (ARH).
The Chilled Plus Program (similar to the Cool Kids Program) developed by researchers at the Macquarie University Centre for Emotional Health, is a cognitive behavioural treatment that teaches adolescents creative ways to manage their emotions and reach personal goals.
Dr Carolyn Schniering was awarded an ARH Mental Health Research Grant from 2014-2016 to test whether this type of intervention would still be effective when delivered online.
“This study was the first of its kind in Australia to examine the efficacy of a combined program for anxiety and depression in youth, when delivered over the Internet,” Dr Schniering said.
“The treatment covered information on managing negative feelings, changing unhelpful thinking, developing new behaviours and being resilient.”
90 adolescents with severe anxiety and depression were recruited into study, completing 8 online modules and receiving a short call each week from a therapist.
Results showed that compared to adolescents who did not receive the treatment, adolescents who completed Chilled Plus showed significant improvements in anxiety and depression.
“They were able to do more activities in their daily life and their thinking was less negative. Hence, the Chilled Plus program was effective in treating anxiety and depression in adolescents, and the improvements remained over time,” Dr Schniering said.
The online program also has a lot of benefits for students including better access, reduced costs and the flexibility to receive treatment in their own home.
“This means that more young people can receive help for their problems, in particular those living in country areas where it may be hard to access services.”
Dr Schniering noted from this research that there were many teenagers who were desperate and felt that they had no one to turn to.
“We were able to offer practical solutions and support, which made all the difference.”
“Further efforts are needed to inform people in the community about the burden of anxiety and depression in adolescents, and the treatments that are available.”
Dr Schniering and her team regularly receive letters from teenagers and their families thanking them for the work that they did with them.
“This program has made a lasting difference in their lives.”
The program is now available via the Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University.
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