Care should be taken over e-mental health tools: study

Electronic tools for treatment of mental health issues show great promise but must be introduced cautiously, University of Otago research says.

''E-mental health'' encompasses a wide range of therapies available by the internet or mobile devices - they are often used for adults with depression and anxiety, and have also shown great success treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

As part of research carried out by Otago academics in support of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction Services, the group examined whether use of e-mental therapies could or should be expanded.

Previous studies had touted e-mental health as a way to bridge the gap between patients in need of help and the availability of clinicians and resources.

The recently released Otago findings said electronic innovations in mental health treatment were worthy of further consideration, but there was a risk of further increasing inequalities in access to care if there was a reliance on them.

''Any initiatives will need to be carefully evaluated for their acceptability and utility to priority populations,'' the study said.

''There also needs to be an easy way for people to find high quality resources and tools, such as a single online gateway ... further research is needed on how to effectively incorporate e-mental health into service systems and how to apply it.''

If it was proven to be effective, e-mental health therapies could possibly be used as a stand-alone intervention, as part of group therapy, or as a reminder for patients, the study said.

Researchers also said there were a myriad of ways people could access mental health and addiction support online, but little clear information on the quality of care.


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