Faculty of Health Sciences: Sydney Ideas. Andrew Campbell.

In a world first, Kids Helpline will trial the use of Google+ to help young people manage mental health issues. The pilot project was developed to create a safe and secure space using the Google+ social networking service to support teenagers with anxiety or depression under the guidance of a qualified Kids Helpline. Young people who contact Kids Helpline will be assessed and, if appropriate, directed to secure social networking areas for their age group.

Led by University of Sydney psychologist, Dr Andrew Campbell, the program responds to a gap in services and a growing demand to migrate e-mental health support online.  According to Dr Campbell, social media counselling is the way forward to help teenagers with their problems.  “It is the new frontier for mental health because it responds to the changing habits of at-risk teens who are digital natives and increasingly using social media to connect.” One in three teenagers has a social media account and one in five will suffer a mental health problem, he said.  “Australian teenagers too are more likely to talk to others via social networks about their problems than they are to get help face-to-face from a trusted person like a parent or counsellor.”

Each age group using the service will have a maximum of 10 members who are dealing with similar issues so they can share their experiences and gain support from one another. A 24/7 monitoring system will alert Kids Helpline if any communication signals they should intervene to prevent self-harm.

Kids Helpline is Australia’s only 24/7 national counselling and support service for children and young people aged between five and 25 years. CEO Tracy Adams said that young people seeking help via online counselling now accounted for 42 per cent of all Kids Helpline counselling sessions. “If the pilot is successful, this innovative peer support model could allow us to provide ongoing support for even more young people.”

For more information visit: www.kidshelp.com.au or call 188 55 1800