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Psychological help now just one mouse click away

Psychological help now just one mouse click away

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Vincentians who struggle with low mood and anxiety can now access psychological help with just the click of a mouse.

The assistance comes through the SVG Psychological Wellness Initiative (e-therapy), which is being provided through the collaborative effort of the Ministry of Health, Wellness {{more}}and the Environment and the Trinity School of Medicine.

During a press conference at the Ministry of Transport and Works conference room on August 18, chief health promotions officer Patsy Wyllie told reporters that through an agreement with an Anglo-Finnish supplier called Headsted, two e-therapy programmes, the first of their kind in SVG and the region, will be delivered here free of cost.

Addressing the media, David Lees, EU consultant, said the SVG e-therapy programme is the first initiative to provide comprehensive coverage of online therapies in the Caribbean region.

Lees explained that Vincentians, including secondary school students who think they might benefit from the initiative, just have to ask.

“From high school age and above, as long as you have Internet access at home or through a community centre, as long as you have an e-mail address, all you have to do is ask their family nurse, doctor, counsellor, anybody associated with the health and care system here. If they ask, they will receive access to the course.

“They don’t have to see anybody as a consultation. They can pick up the phone, give their basic details of their name, e-mail address, age and gender and the account will be generated and the information will be sent to their inbox,” Lees outlined.

For secondary school students, Lees stated that they must see their counsellor for the duration of the programme.

The two e-therapy programmes are a seven-week course called ‘Hold your nerve’ for persons struggling with anxiety and ‘Value Your Self’, which is of six weeks duration and is targeted at persons with low moods.

“For those people who do not have Internet at home, I urge them to make contact with local community centres for assistance, particularly if they need assistance in setting up an e-mail address. Nobody should be excluded from this,” he said.

According to Lees, the programmes are based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which he explained is a third wave Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

“ACT aims to help people to build rich and meaningful lives by teaching psychological skills that can help handle painful thoughts and feelings and to help clarify what is truly important and meaningful to you as the participant and to motivate and change things in your life.”

He noted that participants are required to complete all of the sessions for a particular week before they can progress to the following week’s sessions.

He also said all of the data collected will be held in the strictest of confidence.

Lees stated that one in four Vincentians will at some point in their lives meet a challenge of psychological wellness with which they cannot cope.

“It’s not something people talk about on a day-to-day basis, but it’s there. And I want the Psychological Wellness Initiative to be a first step for this country so that people do start talking about it…,” Lees added.

He said people who suffer with psychological well-being issues are at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and insomnia, among others.

“This is as much about prevention and protection as it is about treatment and support,” Lees said.

Epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health Dr Rosmond Adams said the initiative is a significant step which the ministry has taken to deliver significant benefits in the development of psychological wellness of SVG’s population, in terms of treatment, prevention and protection.

“… More recently, people are using electronic forms of communication to seek and receive medical treatment. While the use of the telephone for health-related issues is not as new, administering treatment electronically is relatively novel in SVG,” Adams stated.

Adams said experts predict that the use of e-therapy will increase rapidly during the next several years, as medical treatment modalities are constantly changing.

“For this reason, the stakeholders have decided to take on and launch this new initiative that will provide an excellent opportunity to deliver significant benefits in the development of psychological wellness for the people of SVG.”

Adams noted that e-therapy in medicine speaks to the use of electronic media and information technologies to provide services for the participants in different locations, which is used by skilled and knowledgeable professionals to address a variety of family, individual and social issues.

He added that e-therapy includes a range of services including screening, assessment, primary treatment and after care.

“It can also help people … who traditionally would not seek services because of barriers related to geography, shame and guilt, stigma or other issues,” he said.

Adams, however, said it must be noted that the initiative does not replace support, medication or care pathways already in place.

“So, it is not substituting conventional practice; instead, it is complementing the way in which we offer medical services, keeping in mind the use of modern technology.

The impact of the initiative will be monitored and evaluated by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment and the Trinity School of Medicine to ascertain how beneficial the programmes are to the country.

Dr Amrie Patterson, assistant professor of behavioural sciences and psychiatry at the Trinity School of Medicine said while they are excited that the programme is available to all Vincentians, she is particularly glad that it is open to young people.

“We are excited for them, because they are usually on their electronic devices; this is something they can do that will be of lasting benefit to them,” Patterson said. (KW)

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