More Evidence-Based Internet Self-Help Depression Websites Now Available

Article excerpt

Abstract

The aim of this research study is to evaluate the availability and classification of the types of currently available Internet self-help websites for depression. Its aim is to develop an understanding of what is available for people at risk of depression who would otherwise perhaps not seek help and to investigate whether such useful resources are on the increase. In Australia, depression is the top-ranked cause of nonfatal disability. Over 27% of young adults have a current mental disorder, with depression being the most prevalent (10.8%). This paper investigates the availability and type of self-help websites that are available for people suffering from mild to moderate depression, as a step towards providing avenues for care for this population of sufferers. The most important finding of this study was that not only were there an increased number of websites available as self-help resources, but that over the three year period, there has been a statistically significant increase in the proportion of websites that are evidence-based. This is an important factor for sufferers of mild to moderate depression who are looking for access to online self-help resources.

Key words: Internet, Self-Help, Depression

1 Introduction

The Internet is growing as an influential source of knowledge and information. The number of people using the Internet in 1995 was 2.3 million. In 1998, it had grown to 300 million, with an exponential growth pattern [14]. It has been found that only four in ten people with diagnosable behaviour or mental disorders ever seek help from a health professional [13]. Internet-based intervention has been suggested to be on the increase as a technological innovation [12]. It is therefore suggested that the Internet may help in providing access to a pathway to care for these people.

Globally, depression is the third major cause of disability, following cancer and heart disease [17]. It was found to be the top-ranking cause of non-fatal disease burden in Australia, causing 8% of the total years lost due to disability in 1996. Mental disorders overall were responsible for nearly 30% of the non-fatal disease burden, accounting for 3.7% of the total burden [16]. It is predicted that depression will be the second most common cause of global disability by 2020 and is currently a major risk factor for suicide and suicidal behaviour [17].

Depression is a major health issue in young people. The latest Australian Census of Population and Housing mental health and well-being profile [2] shows that the prevalence of mental disorder in the overall Australian population is highest (27%) in young adults aged 18-24 years. Australian youth have one of the highest suicide rates in the world. There are over 3.5 million (3,636,900) 12-25 year-olds in Australia, which is over one-fifth (21%) of all Australians. The prevalence of depression in the young adult (20-24 year old) population is approximately 10%, with depressive symptoms reported in 15-40% [2].

1.1 Overview of Consequences

Recent community services have confirmed that the vast majority of young people are unlikely to access services and get help from a counsellor, doctor or other professional service. Australian National Probability Sample Surveys [1] found that only 37% of people with current mental disorders had sought help through consultation. Similarly, it has been reported that only half of the subjects with panic disorder seek help for their attacks [11]. Long delays, such as one and a half years before seeking effective help are associated with poorer outcomes. Earlier intervention may enhance treatment outcomes. Specialist programs targeting this specific age group are needed. This is supported by Birleson, et al., (2001) [4], who suggests different programs for 0-17 year-olds and 18-25 year olds in order to be able to better assist them.

2 Objectives

The aim of this paper is two-fold. …