The role of technology in Australian youth mental health reform

Jane M. Burns*, Emma Birrell, Marie Bismark, Jane Pirkis, Tracey A. Davenport, Ian B. Hickie, Melissa K. Weinberg, Louise A. Ellis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


This paper describes the extent and nature of Internet use by young people, with specific reference to psychological distress and help-seeking behaviour. It draws on data from an Australian cross-sectional study of 1400 young people aged 16 to 25 years. Nearly all of these young people used the Internet, both as a source of trusted information and as a means of connecting with their peers and discussing problems. A new model of e-mental health care is introduced that is directly informed by these findings. The model creates a system of mental health service delivery spanning the spectrum from general health and wellbeing (including mental health) promotion and prevention to recovery. It is designed to promote health and wellbeing and to complement face-to-face services to enhance clinical care. The model has the potential to improve reach and access to quality mental health care for young people, so that they can receive the right care, at the right time, in the right way. What is known about the topic? One in four young Australians experience mental health disorders, and these often emerge in adolescence and young adulthood. Young people are also prominent users of technology and the Internet. Effective mental health reform must recognise the opportunities that technology affords and leverage this medium to provide services to improve outcomes for young people. What does this paper add? Information regarding the nature of young people's Internet use is deficient. This paper presents the findings of a national survey of 1400 young Australians to support the case for the role of technology in Australian mental health reform. What are the implications for practitioners? The Internet provides a way to engage young people and provide access to mental health services and resources to reduce traditional barriers to help-seeking and care. eMental health reform can be improved by greater attention toward the role of technology and its benefits for mental health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-590
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


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