Every day in Australia we lose seven young lives to suicide. One in four young people experience a mental health disorder, and 75 percent of young people aged 16 to 24 do not seek help for their mental health. The statistics are staggering, and unfortunately show that young people are struggling to manage their wellbeing.
Statistics also show that 99 percent of young people use the internet daily, and that smartphone uptake among young people has surged from 23 percent to 80 percent in just four years. Technology presents an immense opportunity to reach at-risk young people, to provide real-time, standardised health and wellbeing information and treatment directly to young people in their natural environment.
New and emerging technologies can address key issues such as sleep, diet, exercise, mindfulness, anxiety and depression – helping students to maintain their overall wellbeing with positive effect for their mental health.
At the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, together with our partners, we are extremely excited to be delivering a multi-million dollar pilot project that will fundamentally reshape the system of care and embed technology in Australia’s youth mental health services.
Synergy is a new e-mental health ecosystem of care based on research that argues that a ‘young person-centred’ approach – providing a seamless continuum of support across both online and offline services – will provide young people with world-class care that is user-friendly, accessible and cost-effective. It will bring together data and information from apps such as Recharge and Fitbit, providing up-to-date information on sleep cycles, exercise and mood.
Synergy will provide young people and carers with an integrated suite of online resources that can be accessed and customised, with real-time data they can use and share, ensuring they only need to tell their story once. Schools, universities and workplaces will have capacity to interface their own platforms with Synergy and link personal data (de-identified and/or with permission) to support wellbeing, safety and mental health. Service providers, such as psychologists, will be able to access (with permission) real-time data including young people’s history and pathways, as well as a toolset to deliver better care beyond the clinical session.
The integration of the Synergy system will facilitate young people to receive the right care at the right time, as an individual is able to monitor their wellbeing, and is stepped up or down through the system as their mental health dictates – revolutionising the system as we know it to ensure safe and easy access to mental health services so that no young people are falling through the cracks.
Associate Professor Jane Burns is the founder and CEO of the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, an organisation that unites young people with researchers, practitioners and innovators to explore the role of technology in improving mental health and wellbeing for young people aged 12 to 25. She will be presenting a session at the Digital Health Show conference, part of the Digital Health Show co-located with the Wellness Show and Happiness & Its Causes 2016.