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22 November 2021

Top 3 free digital mental health tools to support your children


The following article has been written by the team at the Black Dog Institute.

Our children are facing a mental health emergency – and it’s escalating. Rates of depression and anxiety among youth have risen dramatically, with Australia’s National Kids Helpline recording a staggering 40% increase in calls during the pandemic.

Sadly, 50% of mental health disorders emerge during adolescence. These can have far-reaching impacts on emotional, social and intellectual developments and can have lifelong consequences. The statistics are alarming, signaling the increasing need for effective preventative interventions to safeguard our children.

Home and school environments are generally the first places where signs of mental health issues can be observed. These are also the best places to address preventing the onset of mental illness. With the help of curriculum-aligned, digital mental health programs, young Australians can access professional mental health support both in school and at home

As leaders in digital mental healthcare and programs for schools, the Black Dog Institute is promoting a mentally healthier world for our young people. Making better care more accessible and available to youth and promoting help-seeking and intervention at a young age.


Tips for finding evidence-based digital mental health tools

As parents, we simply want to do the best we can to support our children. With the breadth of digital mental health programs available, it can be difficult to know which ones to trust and recommend to your school community. Finding a good digital mental health tool can require some investigation, mainly to see if it has been scientifically proven to build good mental health.

Here are a few tips:

  • Find the evidence: Try to determine if there is any scientific evidence that the app is achieving its goal and is proven to work.
  • Look beyond the ratings: High star ratings or the number of downloads may tell you how popular the tool is, but it doesn't necessarily mean they are reliable.
  • Find out who the developer is: Find out if the developer has a reputable name within the mental health space and what other platforms they have developed.
  • The privacy policy: With digital tools, it is important to know that one exists to understand how your data is being protected.


Free digital mental health tools to support your children

One of the key areas of research for the Black Dog Institute is Digital Mental Health and we are subsequently one of the best positioned mental health organisations out there to support your children during this critical time.

1. HeadStrong

The HeadStrong program is a curriculum-aligned resource for years 9 and 10 students focussing on depression, mental health, and resilience. HeadStrong is a free web-based teaching platform and tool for teachers to build mental health, reduce stigma and promote wellbeing within their students. In a scientifically validated research trial, it was shown to increase mental health literacy – a vital skill required for overcoming setbacks in life. The program has been informed by educators and includes five ready-to-use classroom modules and activities that take approximately 10 hours of class to deliver over 5-8 weeks. Topics include: Seeking Help, Helping Others, Depression and Bipolar Disorder, Resilience and Building Wellbeing.

2. BITE BACK

BITE BACK is Australia’s first online positive psychology program designed to improve the overall wellbeing of young Australians aged 13 to 16 years old. It is an interactive, self-guided, online learning platform, containing a range of quizzes, activities and videos. The six-week Mental Fitness Challenge aims to reduce stress, depression and anxiety whilst improving focus and building resilience. Results from a comprehensive research trial showed that using BiteBack could decrease symptoms of psychopathology and increase wellbeing in young people especially for those that used the website for longer than 30 minutes per week.

The Bite Back program is featured in the NSW PDHPE Stage 5 Syllabus and has a range of supporting resources to assist teachers with implementation in the classroom.

3. Future Proofing Study

The Future Proofing Study is the world's largest school study aimed at preventing depression and anxiety in young people, engaging up to 8,000 Year 8 students and following them for a 5-year period. The aim of the Black Dog Institute's study is to identify risk factors and prevent mental illness in young people using digital interventions. The study investigates how to put teenagers' smartphones to positive use to drive mental health and wellbeing on a larger scale.

Caring for and protecting your children is no easy job. The Black Dog Institute is here to help. We encourage you to share these resources with your school community and join us in safeguarding the mental health of our children.