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Cyber Psychiatry Lecturer Department of Information Systems Faculty of Information Technology University of Technology, Sydney PhD Candidate University of Sydney Internet Self-Help Sites for Depression and Related Disorders Gordana Culjak PhD Associate Supervisor

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Cyber Psychiatry

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cyber psychiatry
Cyber Psychiatry

LecturerDepartment of Information SystemsFaculty of Information TechnologyUniversity of Technology,

PhD Candidate

University of Sydney

Internet Self-Help Sites for Depression and Related Disorders

Gordana Culjak

PhD Associate Supervisor

Dr. Nick Kowalenko


Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Royal North Shore Hospital

PhD Principle Supervisor

Professor Chris Tennant

Head of Department

Department of Psychiatry

Academic Psychiatry

Royal North Shore Hospital

aims and objectives
Aims and Objectives
  • To develop and implement innovative approaches to improve young peoples’ mental health
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of Internet self-help websites for depression and related problems
background and significance
Background and Significance

Depression Overall

  • Second most common cause of global disability by 2020
  • The top-ranking cause of non-fatal disease
  • A major risk factor for suicide
background and significance4
Background and Significance

Mental Health in young people

  • Prevalence is highest (27%) in young adults aged 18-24 years
  • Depression found to be the most prevalent of mental disorders
  • Prevalence of depression is 10%
background and significance5
Background and Significance

Consequences and Magnitude

  • Depressive disorder is one of the strongest risk factors for deliberate self-harm and suicidal behavior
  • 62% reported suicidal ideation and 6.6% had had one or more attempts, over half of which did not use any type of mental health services
    • 1,678 undergraduate Australian University students


Internet as a self-help tool

  • The Internet has an exponential growth pattern
  • Internet users look for more information on depression than they do for cancer or heart disease

Internet as a self-help tool

  • Only four in ten people ever seek help
  • Internet-based intervention has been suggested to be on the increase as a technological innovation
  • Most people on average took over 1½ years before they sought help
  • This emphasizes the need and importance of the availability of self-help tools
study design
Study Design
  • Longitudinal Study
  • Randomised Controlled Trial


  • 6 Faculties across 2 Universities
conclusions and future direction
Conclusions and Future Direction
  • Evidence-based interactive programs specifically for the target groups is not yet available
  • To develop a self-help website for young people with depression as an approach to solving some of the current mental health burden
  • Will possibly contribute to cutting health care costs
conclusions and future direction12
Conclusions and Future Direction
  • Enhance access to
    • Information
    • Intervention
    • Adjunct Treatment
  • Information Age
    • Expanding the mental health service delivery model beyond the clinic walls into the community
conclusions and future direction13
Conclusions and Future Direction
  • If proven effective, it will solve some of the current mental health burden for mild to moderate depression
  • Will possibly contribute to cutting health care costs
  • May be applied to other areas
conclusions and future direction14
Conclusions and Future Direction

Why this should be funded

  • Access issues lead to new roles in mental health service provision
  • Health Informatics in depression is at an early stage of development
  • An on-going community need
  • An evidence base is needed

1Aalto-Setaelae, T., Marttunen, M., Tuulio-Henriksson, A., Poikolainen, K. and Loennqvist, J. (2001). One-month prevalence of depression and other DSM-IV disorders among young adults. Psychological Medicine. Vol 31(5): 791-801.

2Christie, K.A., Burke, J.D. Jr., Regier, D.A., Rae, D.S., Boyd, J.H., Locke, B.Z. (1988). Epidemiologic evidence for early onset of mental disorders and higher risk of drug abuse in young adults. American Journal of Psychiatry. 145(8):971-5.

3Schweitzer, R., Klayich, M. and McLean, J. (1995). Suicidal ideation and behaviours among university students in Australia. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 29(3):473-9

4Lawrence, E et al, 2000, Internet Commerce: Digital Models for Business, (2nd Edition) John Wiley, Brisbane.

5Taylor, H. Explosive growth of “cyberchondriacs” continues. (The Harris Poll #47) 5 August 1999. Available at:

6Phillips, L., Yung, A.R., Hearn, N., McFarlane, C., Hallgren, M. and McGorry, P.D. (1999). Preventative mental health care: accessing the target population. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 33(6):912-7.