12 December 2018

App to deliver real-time help for mental illness

App to deliver real-time help for mental illness

The way in which young people access therapy for their mental health concerns will be transformed through a new app under development by researchers at Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.

The app, ‘Real’, is designed to transform therapy from a place young people go occasionally for support, to a 24/7 hand-held tool that proactively delivers help at the exact moment it’s needed. Using an advanced mobile sensing system, the app will analyse the user’s patterns of activity including sleep, phone use and social contact to get to know who the young person is, and what their needs are.

Program coordinator Tamsyn Gilbertson said the insights gained through the app would allow for clinically proven support and advice to be proactively delivered straight to the young person’s mobile device. “The individual will also have the option of sharing data on their wellbeing directly with their therapist via the app, which will help to keep face-to-face therapy focussed on what’s really happening in young people’s lives,” Ms Gilbertson said.  

Mental ill-health is the leading cause of disability and death among young people aged 15-24 years. More than half of all young people will experience a period of mental ill health, such as anxiety and depression, during their transition to adulthood.

“We clearly need smarter ways of supporting young Australians experiencing mental ill-health,” Ms Gilbertson said.


“We’re currently relying on an age-old model of therapy that requires young people to come into an unfamiliar service to get help, and which gives them little direct support to apply this help within their stressful daily lives.

“We want to use digital technology to deliver targeted, individual support to young Australians in the places and moments they need it,” Ms Gilbertson said.

“For example, if the app notices that a user is up later than their usual bedtime, it will proactively deliver clinically proven support to help them unwind and get to sleep.”

“The app will also help to bridge the gap between therapy sessions and real-life situations by reminding clients of the practical strategies they can use at home and in social situations to help enhance their well-being and relationships.”

Ms Gilbertson said the research team’s ultimate goal was to proactively deliver empowering and effective mental health care to every young Australian who needs it.

 ‘Real’, is being developed by eOrygen, the digital division of Orygen, and is funded through the Telstra Foundation’s Tech4Good Challenge.