Treatment of depression by correspondence a world first
Depression, Australia's most common disabling illness, is often associated with anxiety and high alcohol consumption, however sufferers are reluctant to seek help and often have difficulty in accessing clinical services.
In a world first, the Australian Centre for Addiction Research (ACAR) at the University of Sydney is developing an innovative approach to effectively assist people to manage their depression, anxiety and alcohol consumption by correspondence.
'The advantage of delivering the treatment by correspondence is that people can be treated in the comfort of their own homes and with relative anonymity,' said Director of the Program Associate Professor Sitharthan Thiagarajan, member of the faculty of medicine, the University of Sydney.
'We have found that for those who do seek help, current treatment services rarely address mental health issues and alcohol use at the same time,' he said. 'As a result people have to access mental health services and drug and alcohol services separately in order to receive treatment - and this doesn't suit most people.'
The researchers are not yet sure if people become depressed and anxious as a result of their alcohol consumption, or whether people drink to cope with their depression and anxiety.
However, what is generally accepted is that these people are often highly reluctant to seek help for their problems. A major reason for this is because of the stigma attached to the illness.
To find out what are some of the best ways to assist people to manage their negative mood and alcohol consumption, the Australian Centre for Addiction Research is seeking volunteers to take part in an innovative intervention.
Participants will be required to complete a questionnaire which will assess symptoms of depression and anxiety, their alcohol consumption, and related psychological stress and worry. Participants will be given individual personal feedback based on their responses from the questionnaire.
During the course of the study, all participants will be sent six fortnightly mailings. These mailings are designed to give participants ideas and tips to manage their negative mood and reduce their alcohol consumption. These strategies are based on cognitive behavioural therapy techniques, widely used by clinical psychologists to assist people to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as managing alcohol use.
The program is free and confidential and is funded by the Alcohol Education Research Foundation.