Mental Health Week study shows SMS can offer support for those suffering from mental illness

Topic: Industry News

Today, on World Mental Health Day, everyone is focused on combating the global problem of mental illness. Here in Australia, our researchers are looking to find the best possible tools for the fight.

Associate Professor at Flinders University, Niranjan Bidargaddi, recently completed a study on the use of SMS to enhance support for mental health patients. The patients chosen for the study had been admitted to the Emergency Department at Flinders Medical Centre in 2013.

The study, funded by SA Health, used SMS to support Flinders Medical Centre’s tele-health psychotherapy service. The service includes a series of phone-based counselling sessions, once a week, for a period of time up to six weeks. Researchers scheduled personalised SMS messages to be sent to patients following each therapy session. There was a total of 432 messages sent to 45 participants throughout the trial.

“The therapist and client negotiated the types of messages that were sent. For example, it might have been a basic tip to prevent worrying thoughts or a reminder to exercise if this was one of the client’s goals,” Associate Professor Bidargaddi told Medical Xpress.

The SMS messages were scheduled in advance and the content of the messages were specifically tailored to each individual patient. This way, the messages seemed as though they were personally sent by the therapists of the participants. Overall the service was received positively by participants. Some participants commented on feeling a sense of support, even though they were outside of therapy sessions.

“This indicates that it’s definitely feasible to deliver SMS support to such a complex group of consumers, whose engagement in therapy is otherwise quite low,” Associate Professor Bidargaddi said.

“Once consumers finish a session, they don’t necessarily engage in the day-to-day activities and behaviours recommended by their therapist. But our results show that something as simple as sending a text message could keep them on track between sessions,” Associate Professor Bidargaddi said.


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Prachi Bametha

Marketing Coordinator, Esendex Australia