NACCHO Health Technology NEWS: National online youth counselling service goes mobile

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Image above Headspace

Young people can now use their smartphones and tablet devices to access Australia’s only youth-specific online mental health service staffed exclusively by qualified clinicians.

The new mobile-enabled eheadspace website will make it even easier for teenagers and young adults to get support when and where they need it for issues such as bullying, depression, anxiety and relationship breakups.

Launching the new website on the Gold Coast,headspace CEO Chris Tanti said the changes recognised that an increasing number of young people were accessing the online world through their mobile devices.

“The most recent figures show that more than three quarters of 18-25 year olds now access the Internet via their mobile devices and a third surf the web on an iPad or other tablet,” Mr Tanti said.

“These numbers will only go up. headspaceunderstands these trends and we are improving our services to ensure that we’re supporting young people via the channels they are using.”

Mr Tanti said eheadspace had grown rapidly since it was established 18 months ago, with around 18,000 young people now registered for the service, which offers free support to 12-25 year olds via instant messaging, email and over the telephone.

The new website not only allows young people to receive support via their iPhone, iPad or Android device, but also includes a range of other innovations, including:

  • A virtual waiting room with YouTube videos and reading material to entertain and inform young people while they wait for their appointment;
  • A ‘My Account’ page for each registered user, allowing them to manage their settings and review past eheadspacesessions;
  • Responsive web design that fits eheadspace to the screen of any device, even those that haven’t been released yet;
  • Emoticons to help young people express how they are feeling; and
  • Vastly improved accessibility for young people with disabilities.

Mr Tanti said eheadspace, an initiative of the Australian Government, was all about creating a service that young people wanted to come to by making it as accessible and youth-friendly as possible.

“If you are a young person, you need to know thatheadspace will be there for you wherever you are,” Mr Tanti said.

“If you want to go to a centre, we have 55 around the country for you to access. But if you don’t live near aheadspace centre, or prefer talking about your concerns online or over the phone, the neweheadspace site is a great option. And if you want support at school, our new School Support program is also there to help.”

Mr Tanti said the eheadspace innovations would be especially significant for young people living outside capital cities who don’t have immediate access to in person mental health services.

“Our network of centres is growing rapidly but even with this growth there are still young Australians who live too far from a centre to get regular assistance,” Mr Tanti said.

The new eheadspace website complements other essential online counselling services such as those offered by Kids Helpline and Lifeline.

Manager of eheadspace Vikki Ryall said the significant growth in the number of young people coming through its virtual doors indicates that many now see online support as a preferable option.

“We hear it all the time, young people saying ‘Finally, adults are talking to us in the way we want to be spoken to, over the medium we prefer’,” Ms Ryall said.

“We know some young people still find it hard to walk into a traditional mental health service, so options likeeheadspace make the first step of getting help much easier.”

Ms Ryall said eheadspace was expanding its service all the time, with support for parents now available, as well as a GP service soon to be offered. Recently a vocational expert was appointed to help support young people in their work or study needs.

“Young people are voting with their feet and signing up to these services in larger and larger numbers every month. We hope the improvements announced today will make it even more popular across the country,” she said.

headspace media contact: Ben Hart, Public Affairs Manager
Mobile: 0407 445 551