Free mental health program for those in lockdown

University of the Sunshine Coast

A free online program that has already helped hundreds improve their mental wellbeing is being made available to people across South East Queensland during lockdown and beyond.

The program, called EMERALD, is an evidence-based, eight-week online program developed by mental health experts at USC’s Thompson Institute. It offers personalised coaching and support through self-paced modules and one-on-one appointments with allied health clinicians.

It is designed to assist people who have mild to moderate concerns about their mental health address their symptoms before they get worse.

Thompson Institute Mental Health Nurse Monique Jones said EMERALD participants had reported increases of up to 52 percent in their sense of wellbeing on completion of the program.

“Most participants, even those who reported only mild symptoms of depression or anxiety at the start of the program, feel like they have improved their wellbeing by the end,” Ms Jones said.

“Even though those feelings were still present in their lives, they felt like they could cope better because they had learned new ways to manage those feelings and have felt supported to make changes.

“Lockdown can bring stress and uncertainty. So it is helpful for sometimes we need to get back to the basics and learn how to manage this stress, for example making sure I get a good sleep and am I moving my body.”

Ms Jones said participants have one-on-one appointments with Thompson Institute health coaches and allied health clinicians who provide advice on making positive lifestyle changes through nutrition, exercise, sleep habits, social activity and life organisation.

“It’s participant-driven, so participants set their own goals and are supported to reach those goals, which is really empowering for people,” she said.

USC Thompson Institute Director Professor Jim Lagopoulos said providing the EMERALD program was one of the ways the institute was delivering evidence-based mental health research to the community.

“Each year, 890,000 people are affected by mental illness in Queensland,” Professor Lagopoulos said.

“Our mission is to improve lives through neuroscience, so we are packaging this and offering it to the community because we know that addressing early decline in wellbeing can prevent long-term problems.”

Professor Lagopoulos said 98 percent of EMERALD participants reported in feedback that the program content had helped them in some way.

“With outcomes like this, we would love to eventually see this program rolled out nationwide,” he said.

The program is free for community members, thanks to support from the Wilson Foundation.

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