USQ launching digital mental health platform for children, adolescents next year

Researchers from the University of Southern Queensland are coming up with a new digital mental health platform for children and adolescents. The project was made possible through A$5 million funding from the government’s Medical Research Future Fund. 

Called Momentum, the online tool is being developed in tandem with young people, parents, and mental health professionals from Kids Helpline, West Moreton Health, Children’s Health Queensland, Education Queensland, Stride and Darling Downs and West Moreton Primary Health Network.

WHAT IT DOES

Targeted to be rolled out next year, Momentum aims to help young people manage common mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse and other related difficulties, by integrating detection, assessment, and tailored interventions. 

After users fill out a check-in survey, the platform will create a tailored programme that addresses their mental health problems. The programme will include a range of sessions to help them understand their issues and learn strategies for managing their difficulties. 

WHY IT MATTERS

The long lockdowns, school closures and restrictions in socialisation have undoubtedly affected the mental health of children and adolescents. “The impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health was significant but it was just the tip of the iceberg,” Professor Sonja March, the Momentum project’s lead, said.

As the pandemic will probably continue to “chip away at the mental health of young people for years,” she underscores the need for “more innovative solutions to address this growing crisis”. 

This is where digital mental health tools like Momentum comes in, which Prof. March said are “particularly appealing for young people because they have been exposed to digital technologies from a young age and spend much of their time using the internet to socially network and find information”. “Our key goal was to build something young people would want to use,” she added.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

The upcoming digital platform extends from the BRAVE Self-Help programme, which has assisted over 60,000 young users in coping with anxiety. The self-directed therapy programme, also led by USQ’s Prof. March, saw a triple increase in user count during the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Meanwhile, the Univesity of Sydney has also obtained government funding to try out a new model of care to help young people address their mental health problems at an early stage. The university’s Brain and Mind Centre collaborated with Orygen, Deakin University and the University of Notre Dame for the five-year trial that will begin early next year. The trial will involve around 1,500 children and adolescents currently seeking treatment for mood disorders in any mental health service. The project will provide participating clinicians access to a digital platform that features detailed assessment measures, longitudinal tracking and interactivity.


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