SMS (Save My Sanity)

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To boost mental health, promising new programs will capitalize on the key role technology plays in teen’s lives – from SMS to facebook.

Mental health issues are alarmingly common among Australia’s youth in particular, with one in four aged 16-24 years affected. However, the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics research finds that only one quarter of the 671,000 sufferers used mental health services in the previous year. According to National Youth Mental Health organization, Headspace, there is a pressing need to do something more for young people.

It is imperative that we provide supportive solutions in the ways they like to communicate most.

One group from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is pioneering a program using cell phones – mobiletext. Teens taking part are texted questions designed to gauge their mood, feelings and emotions, ranging from how much alcohol they have consumed to how they coped with being stressed during the day. A software application on their phone allows their answers to be sent onto participating GPs for analysis. Of course financial supporters and telecommunications group, Telstra, have praised the innovation.

The SANE Mobile website is specifically optimised for the screen size and browsing capabilities of mobile devices and will a range of information and services including podcasts, video on-the-go and information for media, complementing SANE’s existing comprehensive services. People concerned about their own or a friend’s mental health can now send an enquiry to SANE from their cell phone, to get information, advice and referral from a health professional.

Another group, Youthlink are partnering with touch and interactive specialists, Enabled Solutions, to develop an assessment app for the iPad.

While these latest techno programs might engage teens with existing mental health problems, we should remain mindful of the importance of prevention. Positive psychology initiatives now in place in schools, such as the Bounce Back! Resilience Programs, promise to be helpful in this regard.

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6 Responses to “SMS (Save My Sanity)”

  1. Dave Auerbach Says:

    My reaction, on reading this blog, is to scream “Leave the kids alone!”

    Also, I am a little confused by the second paragraph. One in four Australian youth have mental health issues. What is a mental health issue in this regard. Severe depression or having once answered a questionnaire stating that they sometimes get worried or anxious? And one in four of those (one eight total)used mental health services. This doesn’t sound like a problem, it sounds like huge over-utilization.

    Further, texting them questions such “How you feeling today?” or “How much did you drink last night?” or “Was the sex good on Saturday?” sounds positively intrusive. Sure there are some that do have problems, and these should surely be helped, by the solutions proposed by the blog seem very expensive and unwarranted. There are plenty of real problems out there. Please worry about them.

  2. vbhise Says:

    Well, I feel today’s youth have a “life” which is not only different compared to previous generations but is also more virtual. Communication means for today’s youth are drastically different from what they were some years ago. Person-to-person communication is unimportant and boring for these facebook addicted, mobile phone loving kids.
    Personally they may not speak a word but can blurt everything out in a text or on facebook.
    That’s why I feel that such an initiative should not only be encouraged but also be promoted emphatically. Today’s youth live in complete social isolation ( they have a virtual world though). So any problem, mental or even physical is not going to be shared. Such an initiative can atleast make us aware of the mental condition of the youth.

  3. christinefernan Says:

    Reading this blog, I feel inspired that technology can be used to help teens achieve better health. I think what we’re observing with the SANE mobile concept, is only the version “1.0” of how this concept can be used. Right now, it seems that teens are being sent questions to respond to and their answers gage their states. The benefit of this is that the teens feel that someone cares about their state of mind, the teen gets to remain relatively anonymous(as they do not need to respond face to face) and the process of texting makes the teen aware of how their states may change from day to day. The data collected could help signal to health professionals should a teens mental state decline, allowing the health professional to intervene before the teen does something potentially dangerous.
    In the future, this program may become more interactive, with teens proactively texting when they are worried and depressed. Perhaps they can become linked with a network of other teens who are also feeling in a similar way. The larger point is that this is an innovative way to reach teens in a manner that they find appealing. Teens feel differently about personal information and this concept may be significantly less intrusive than older generations.

  4. jcapricious Says:

    The ideas presented in this blog seem interesting. Although the idea seems altruistic and logical, do you think teens will really buy into it? Yes, the teens of this generation are more keen to social networking and all the latest advances in technology, but they are more open in these outlets because they seem comfortable in that environment. They’re surrounded by their friends or they try to create a persona of someone they’d want to be in order to combat the possible loneliness they feel. With either explanation, I’m not sure if teens will honestly open up. I’m not sure how an automated system will garner their trust to the point that they will express their true sentiments via text message.

    Also, I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “mental health issues”. There are a wide array of disorders that can fall under that umbrella category. Is this system in place to specifically talking about possibly discovering angst, mild depression, and social anxiety of teens and trying to ameliorate that? Or is it just to find out the possibility of any health issue? I think if the teens do have some sort of mental issue that it will be even harder for them to want to open up to someone they are unfamiliar to, especially via text message.

    • shaymes Says:

      Good pick up that “mental health issues” can mean many things. The prevalence figure incorporates substance use disorders, including alcohol. Also, mental disorder diagnosis does not necessarily mean that treatment is required. Mental disorders may be transient.

      Having said this, our youth are our future and the world in which they now live is complicated with family breakdowns and excessive choices. Tragically, youth suicide is prevalent among some indigenous populations. I do believe we owe them as much support as possible and that we might at least attempt to do so via avenues they use. Kids are worth it.

  5. uluslararasi sms Says:

    uluslararasi sms…

    […]SMS (Save My Sanity) « SBFPHC Policy Advocacy[…]…

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