This Way Up: the Aussie mental health app saving lives

3 min read

For the many Australians who’ve suffered alone with the debilitating symptoms of depression and anxiety, a new mental health app is providing affordable and affective treatment.

The Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression (CRUfAD) at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, is a pioneer in the online treatment of mental illness. 

CRUfAD’s This Way Up have recently developed a suite of smartphone applications, in addition to the existing website programs, giving the majority of Australians portable access to proven and effective anxiety and depression treatments. 

The app is particularly helpful in delivering treatment to isolated Australians and those seeking to protect their privacy around mental health treatment.

Dr Hila Haskelberg, project manager at THIS WAY UP, says there is still a stigma associated with mental health treatment, “This online and mobile delivery of treatment is private and confidential,” she reports. 

Launched in 2012, THIS WAY UP was designed and developed by Professor Gavin Andrews and his team of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. In the late 1990s and 2000s, Andrews created manuals and books to assist treatment of anxiety and depression. He then realised the power of the internet could allow this information to be transferred to an online medium that would provide Australians with access to treatment, regardless of their location. 

THIS WAY UP provides nine courses that help alleviate the symptoms of depression, anxiety, depression and anxiety, shyness (social phobia), panic, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), fear of illness (health anxiety), and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

The courses, available to people 18 years and over, use the principles of a treatment called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which Dr Haskelberg says has proven effective in treating different mental health conditions. 

Best of all, if you want to seek help, simply enrol here

Each course has six lessons, which focus on different skills, including problem solving and addressing negative thinking, and are based on a comic story. You follow a character’s journey to recovery. The depression course, for example, follows the path of a 30-something woman struggling with depression. 

Each lesson takes up to an hour and includes homework, and Haskelberg says another two to three hours of practice is recommended. The courses, which are completed in your own time, cost $59 each for three months access. 

More than 10,000 Australians have already taken advantage of the app’s resources and it continues to grow in popularity. “It’s cheaper than going to a psychologist and you don’t have to travel or take time off work,” Haskelberg states, adding that on average, 80 per cent of people who complete the course improve greatly; while 50 per cent no longer have symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you don’t have the internet at home, you can usually get free access at your local library. 

According to Haskelberg, one of the key reasons the courses are so effective is the removal of variability. “It is a standardised and consistent approach,” she says. 

What if people don’t improve while doing the course?

A questionnaire monitors progress, and if it shows a person’s distress is significantly high, they receive an automatic email saying they might want to consider talking with a clinician, and if it’s a crisis to call Lifeline or go to the emergency department of a hospital. 

THIS WAY UP continues to develop new courses, and is planning to go live with two mindfulness courses in the near future. 

Disclaimer: All course costs were correct at time of publication.

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This information is current as at 15 Dec 2016.

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