Depression? Let me Google That for You
An Editorial from the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing about the launch of the mindhealthconnect.org.au website.
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PDF printable version of Depression? Let me Google That for You (PDF 211 KB)
6 July 2012
What would we do without Google? It is the modern oracle, particularly for those questions we’re too busy (or embarrassed) to ask.
But the use of internet search engines like Google to find information about our health, including mental health, is a vexed issue.
We’ve all heard the stories of people punching in a series of symptoms or personal details to get an ‘online diagnosis’ that eventually proves to be incorrect.
Yet four in five Australians continue to turn to the web for information about their health and around 50 per cent of Australians use the internet to diagnose a health condition.
Doctors caution that people should not use the internet solely for health information or diagnosis.
Whilst people should be cautious about using the internet to diagnose medical conditions, the reality is that more people will use the web for health information in the future, not less.
Australians are busy and often ‘a quick Google’ is a convenient option for working people. Many also feel this is a more ‘private’ way of taking the first step to deal with a health issue. This is particularly the case with mental health, which tends to carry a stigma that acts against seeking professional advice.
We know that one in five Australians will experience a mental illness in any given year. We also know less than half of these people will seek treatment.
Anything we can do to help people take the first step in asking for help is a good thing. So the question becomes, how do we make sure that accurate information and good advice is available online?
My view is that the Government has a role to play, and that’s why we’ve just launched a new e-mental health portal called Mindhealthconnect.
The first of its kind, the portal provides a trustworthy source of information, support and a gateway to therapy for people seeking information and assistance.
To make sure we get this right, we will stage the implementation of the service. And to instruct its development we’ve enlisted the support of nine expert partners in the project including Beyond Blue, Reach Out, Black Dog Institute and Lifeline.
Initially, the site will have capacity to support automated online therapy and later will be expanded to support real-time online counselling services, information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, information on alcohol and other drugs, eating disorders and severe mental illnesses.
This stands to benefit every group in society – particularly people in rural and regional areas where services on the ground can be harder to come across.
The local GP down the street will always be the backbone of the Australian health system but modern life requires modern solutions.
The internet has changed the way we shop, the way we work and it is quickly changing the way we manage our health. Mindhealthconnect will revolutionise the way we get mental health services to those who need help.
Visit the mindhealthconnect website for more information.
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