Young adults aged 16-24 are more likely to experience a mental health issue than any other age group1. Yet, more often than not, many don’t know how to cope or where to turn. That’s where Uprise comes in.
“The earlier you teach individuals the skills to manage mental health, the less likely they are to develop a mental illness later in life and all the complications that come with it.” That’s according to Dr Jay Spence, who — with the help of Swinburne University and Medibank — is researching the efficacy of a new app and online platform that teaches young Australians the skills they need to manage their mental health.
Called Uprise, the digital program features a number of techniques and skills designed to show users how to manage their thinking, how to manage their emotions and which behaviours lead to feeling better over the long term.
“Most people understand what they need to do to look after their physical health in terms of diet, exercise and sleep, but when you ask what they need to do to look after their mental health, most people don't know,” said Dr Spence.
“Feeling stressed, anxious or depressed can be quite confusing, and not knowing where to look for support can make the situation even harder.
“We know what tends to work when it comes to helping people improve their mental health. The issue is getting the skills that work to reach the people that need them,” he said.
In addition to the tutorials, the app also has support coaches, including psychologists and counsellors, who are available to speak to users directly at any time.
“Most people understand what they need to do to look after their physical health...but when you ask what they need to do to look after their mental health, most people don’t know.” — Dr Jay Spence
“Uprise is a little like going through therapy, except it’s not so intense. Users can learn the skills in their own time, when and where they like,” he said.
Dr Spence is now working with a team of researchers from Swinburne University, led by Dr Michelle Lim, to assess the efficacy of the digital platform on mental health outcomes for young adults in tertiary education.
“The study will track two groups; one group will use the Uprise app, the other group will be assessed and if deemed appropriate, will be put on a waitlist for a month before being given access to the platform,” explains Dr Lim.
“The reason we do this is so we can clearly compare the outcomes if a person undergoes the Uprise program, versus simply sticking to their normal routine — whatever that may be. The only way to test the true effectiveness of the platform is by having this comparison group.”
With the study expected to be wrapped up by the end of the year, Dr Lim hopes the research prompts a shift in the use of digital platforms in mental health support.
“Digital platforms are worth investigating because they are cost effective; they’re very in line with students’ competencies and they also provide an alternative pathway to receiving mental healthcare solutions. This is especially important with this demographic, who may not be inclined to seek help face-to-face,” she said.
According to Dr Spence, mental health issues can have a strong impact on student attrition at university, and he’s hopeful that Uprise will be able to bridge the gap and provide support to students who need it.
“It’s a vicious cycle. Elevated stress levels often experienced by undergraduates puts them at significant risk of not only mental health issues, but attrition. This attrition can then lead to complications of career delay, self-esteem problems and then it has the potential to move into something much more complex.
“The further ‘upstream’ we teach these mental health skills, the better equipped they will be if they do find themselves in a challenging situation.”
Uprise has been providing digital programs in the corporate space for several years and this trial is the first adaptation of Uprise to be used with university students. Dr Spence believes that the approach could be successfully used by a range of other insurers, hospitals and secondary schools. Although Uprise has been developed with university students and adolescents in mind, Dr Spence sees the benefits reaching a wide range of demographics.
“It's accessible for all people. We really looked at the most universal skills to be able to manage mental health. These come up in research trials as being the top skills to be able to improve happiness, wellbeing, satisfaction with life and stress over time."
1The Mental health of Australians 2: report on the 2007 national survey of mental health and wellbeing. Slade et al., 2009.
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