Who Are the Young People Choosing Web-based Mental Health Support? Findings From the Implementation of Australia's National Web-based Youth Mental Health Service, eheadspace

Debra Rickwood, Maryanne Webb, Vanessa Kennedy, Nic Telford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background:
The adolescent and early adult years are periods of peak prevalence and incidence for most mental disorders. Despite the rapid expansion of Web-based mental health care, and increasing evidence of its effectiveness, there is little research investigating the characteristics of young people who access Web-based mental health care. headspace, Australia’s national youth mental health foundation, is ideally placed to explore differences between young people who seek Web-based mental health care and in-person mental health care as it offers both service modes for young people, and collects corresponding data from each service type.

Objective:
The objective of this study was to provide a comprehensive profile of young people seeking Web-based mental health care through eheadspace (the headspace Web-based counseling platform), and to compare this with the profile of those accessing help in-person through a headspace center.

Methods:
Demographic and clinical presentation data were collected from all eheadspace clients aged 12 to 25 years (the headspace target age range) who received their first counseling session between November 1, 2014 and April 30, 2015 via online chat or email (n=3414). These Web-based clients were compared with all headspace clients aged 12 to 25 who received their first center-based counseling service between October 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015 (n=20,015).

Results:
More eheadspace than headspace center clients were female (78.1% compared with 59.1%), and they tended to be older. A higher percentage of eheadspace clients presented with high or very high levels of psychological distress (86.6% compared with 73.2%), but they were at an earlier stage of illness on other indicators of clinical presentation compared with center clients.

Conclusions:
The findings of this study suggest that eheadspace is reaching a unique client group who may not otherwise seek help or who might wait longer before seeking help if in-person mental health support was their only option. Web-based support can lead young people to seek help at an earlier stage of illness and appears to be an important component in a stepped continuum of mental health care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJMIR Mental Health
Volume3
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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