Mood Memos Tackles the Depression Epidemic with a Little e-Help

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The University of Melbourne, Australia, is studying a new technique for preventing depression, by using email as a cost-effective health promotional tool for mild depression. The Mood Memos study will trial the effectiveness of regular emails with information and coping advice for depression symptoms

The internet is an ideal medium for mental health promotion, as it is a highly used source of information about mental health, and information can be widely disseminated at little cost.

One in five people experience depression at some stage of their lives and depression has an enormous economic burden, tens of billions of dollars each year in the US alone. Is there a way of preventing depression before it gets too bad, and save millions in the process? The Mood Memos study at Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, The University of Melbourne, is applying a 21st century approach to this problem, by using the Internet and email technology to help prevent depression. The Mood Memos study is an email-based mental health promotion campaign targeting people suffering some depression symptoms, who are at great risk of worsening into full depression.

Professor Tony Jorm, study investigator, says “knowledge about depression can be poor, and many are not aware of the effective self-help strategies for depression symptoms, instead using unhelpful or even harmful ways of coping.” People experiencing ongoing difficulties, such as problems at work or family conflict, are at increased risk of depression. Providing these people with information about depression and effective ways to cope could avert their descent into major depressive disorder.

Mood memos are emails delivered every few days over a period of 6 weeks, bringing expert coping advice and information about depression directly to email inboxes. The study co-ordinator, Amy Morgan, says “the internet is an ideal medium for this sort of mental health promotion, as it is a highly used source of information about mental health, and information can be widely disseminated at little cost. Emails have been used as a promotional tool in other health areas, such as improving diet and exercise, but they have yet to be used to improve mental health.”

The Mood Memos study is open to participants around the world until November 2010. The study is ideal for those who want to know more about how to help themselves feel better or want more information about depression. Participation is free and all data is confidential. Recruitment to the study is managed online, so those interested in taking part should visit the website to sign up: MoodMemos.com. The study website has a short depression questionnaire that can be filled out to see whether someone is depressed, and has more information about the study.

The study is funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, and the Sidney Myer Fund, and has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee at The University of Melbourne.

About Orygen Youth Health Research Centre:

Orygen Youth Health Research Centre (OYH-RC) is Australia's largest youth mental health research centre. Its research aims to understand the biological, psychological and social factors that influence onset, remission and relapse of mental illnesses, in order to find better ways to prevent or reduce the impact of mental disorders for young people. Its executive director, Professor Patrick McGorry, was named the 2010 Australian of the Year.

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