Mental health app helping Coast through COVID

A free digital platform that curates mental health and suicide prevention services on the Sunshine Coast has proven its worth in recent months, with the service accessed almost 1,000 times since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place.

USC’s Thompson Institute launched the iHelp digital tool in December last year to bring local services to the fingertips of people who are experiencing a mental health issue or crisis.

Institute Director Professor Jim Lagopoulos said iHelp had been accessed 946 times since COVID-19 led to the closure of Australian borders in late March.

“When COVID hit, we created a new section that offers mental health advice specific to the pandemic and its repercussions, and almost all users have accessed that information to date,” Professor Lagopoulos said.

“The number of people using the service continues to rise, particularly since COVID hit but also as word-of-mouth and digital advertising share the news that this useful tool is freely available to Sunshine Coast residents.”

iHelp is available via a webpage and is a downloadable app for android and iOS phones.

The digital tool connects people experiencing a crisis to immediate help both locally and further afield. It finds services that match a person’s needs and provides information that demystifies seeking help, such as what to expect from crisis support lines.

Professor Lagopoulos said easy access was key to the success of mental health support.

“Whether a person notices early that their mental health needs attention or whether they are nearing or at a crisis point, it is very important that they can find help quickly and easily, and iHelp exists to help anyone do that,” he said.

“We want to help our community to be well connected to mental health services, as this increases their resilience, supports them to thrive and, very importantly, can prevent heartbreaking losses to suicide.

“We are so pleased to see that people are seeking support, particularly during a time in history that is difficult for so many.”

iHelp was developed as a part of the Thompson Institute’s The Alliance for Suicide Prevention project by award-winning social enterprise Community Information Support Services.

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