Prevention of mental health disorders in young people
Adolescence can be a difficult time for many young people. It is seen as a crucial period for intervention as 75% of mental health problems emerge before the age of 25 years. Led by Scientia Professor Helen Christensen, the Black Dog Institute is focused on developing ways to prevent the onset of mental illness in young people. Prevention targeted at the right time can help to stop young people from experiencing episodes of both depression and bipolar disorder. To engage adolescents, our prevention work often utilises web-based technology and mobile apps.
Why focus on prevention and treatment in youth?
Depression and anxiety affects the lives of many young Australians; annually one in six experiences an anxiety disorder and one in 16 experiences depression. These illnesses lower the quality of life of young people and their families, increase the risk of suicide and worsen the outcomes of other physical or mental health problems. Adolescence can be a difficult time for many young people. Amongst the many pressures experienced by teens, final exams are considered to be among the most stressful. We know that stress can trigger underlying vulnerabilities that can result in mental illness such as depression. Indeed, more than 40% of Year 12 students report symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress that fall outside what is considered the normal range for this age group.
This program aims to deliver prevention programs through games, apps and websites, and to bring together information from social media, self report and pervasive devices to develop a rich data set for the future. The school is an ideal environment to deliver prevention programs at appropriate transitions and for that reason, many of our programs are delivered in the school setting.
This research study will evaluate the effectiveness of a mobile phone app to deliver mindfulness training to young people to address mental health problems and promote health.
Project Z will examine whether a smartphone app designed for adolescent sleep difficulties is a feasible and effective approach for improving sleep.
This study will evaluate whether SPARX (an online, gamified CBT program) is effective in preventing the onset of depressive symptoms when delivered to adolescents prior to a universal stressor (final secondary school exams).
Smooth Sailing is an online mental health clinic that targets help-seeking for depression and anxiety symptoms in high-school students. The project aims to evaluate the service.
This project evaluated the effectiveness of a universal intervention for the prevention of depression in adolescence prior to experiencing a major stressor, senior (Year 12) high school level studies.
This study aims to discover how to use smartphones to deliver preventive interventions on a large scale. Comprehensive, technology-assisted data collection and analysis will also help to determine what triggers the development of mental health symptoms.
The Good Behaviour Game Trial will assess the feasibility and acceptability of the 10-week universal prevention program based on the principle of behavioural and emotional regulation. The program was developed to reduce the life-long risk of mental disorders, improve behavioural problems and improve academic outcomes.
This project aims to develop an evidence-based, relationship-focused mobile app for young people to help young people manage common relationship issues they may experience.
This is a pilot trial designed to evaluate the Sleep Ninja app in preparation for a larger, high-powered randomised controlled trial in schools.
Adapted from a successful Dutch web-based program, Living with Deadly Thoughts is associated with a reduction in suicidal thoughts in adults. We now propose to extend the principles of this successful online intervention into an engaging, youth-friendly smartphone-based app that young people can use to manage suicidal thoughts.
Following on from research trials, the Black Dog Institute a suite of youth specific e-mental health programs and apps are now publicly available:
BITE BACK is the very first online positive psychology program aimed at improving the overall wellbeing and happiness of young Australians between the ages of 12 and 18 years. The key objectives of this program are to encourage young people to become more engaged in all aspects of their lives and, ultimately, to build resilience.
HeadStrong is an evidence-based online resource, linked to the Health and Physical Education curriculum, and designed for teachers to teach their students about depression, mental health and resilience.