The Flinders University Institute for Mental Health and Wellbeing, in partnership with the South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) Wellbeing and Resilience Centre, has found that 80% of participants in its research are showing high levels of psychological distress or low levels of wellbeing since the start of COVID-19 restrictions, up from around 50% pre-COVID.
This is the reason that waiting times to see a mental health professional have increased dramatically since COVID-19.
However, the Flinders University Institute for Mental Health and Wellbeing's inaugural director Professor Mike Kyrios and his team have smart and helpful solutions to offer, implementing new evidence-based strategies that can be delivered effectively online in a group format by trained facilitators.
When the pandemic hit, the institute acted swiftly, issuing online mental health and wellbeing advice built around several acronym-led suggestions for how to cope with COVID-19: the STREAM, APPEAL and CARE frameworks. But the great leap forward has been introducing the Be Well Plan, developed in conjunction with the SAHMRI group. This evidence-based online program enables participants to tailor their own suite of exercises and strategies for building strong, positive levels of mental health and wellbeing, and data on participants show it has excelled in prevention, alleviating mental distress after only five online sessions undertaken during COVID-19. The program was particularly effective for those participants with pre-existing mental health challenges.
By providing early intervention through such a convenient online delivery method rather than placing increased pressure on already over-burdened mental illness assistance systems, the Be Well Plan represents a pivotal change in how mental health assistance is being sought and delivered.
“We call it a mental health system, but in truth it's a mental illness and mental disorder system – and this is rather removed from addressing mental health,” explains Professor Kyrios. “The mental health system only looks at people with disorder. It ignores a very large group of people with low wellbeing, and this represents a high risk factor for future mental illness.”