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Using digital health solutions to support veterans

News, Research, Veterans, Technology

Veterans with mental health problems may experience barriers to getting the help they need. One way of addressing these barriers is via the use of digital resources. The Technology Use and Wellbeing Report found one in four veterans use the internet to seek information about, or to manage, mental health issues.

Digital health options can be a useful tool to support the mental health care of Australian veterans.

Veterans struggling with mental health problems may experience barriers to getting the professional help they need. One way of addressing some of these barriers is via the use of digital resources. Veterans are comfortable using the internet to discover health information and to discuss their mental health issues, according to the Technology Use and Wellbeing Report, part of the Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme.

The Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme is a comprehensive study analysing the impact of military service on the mental, physical and social health of veterans. The Technology Use and Wellbeing Report, released in 2018, found almost 70 per cent of veterans would prefer to self-manage their care. In enabling veterans to do this, the internet is recognised as a key asset and mental health professionals are increasingly exploring the potential of digital health solutions to reach and treat the veteran community.

The Technology Use and Wellbeing Report found that about 95 per cent of veterans use the internet at least every day and one in four reported that they talked about difficult issues with people online, rather than face-to-face. One in five said going online when they were facing a difficult time made them feel better.

One in four veterans use the internet to seek help or information about, or to manage, mental health issues, and almost one in five (18 per cent) use social media to inform or assess their mental health.

Half of participants in the study use new and emerging technologies, and over 80 per cent of these use apps and almost a third use wearable devices. These digital health solutions, common within the physical health space, may also serve as effective tools to help veterans access mental health care information and treatment.

While recognising the potential of technology to enhance mental health care access and treatment, the Technology Use and Wellbeing Report highlighted some barriers and obstacles that may prevent the use of technology to improve mental health.

Many veterans use the internet to seek information, with a preference for veteran-specific resources. However, when it comes to treatment, many study participants said they prefer face-to-face treatment options, and only around 30 per cent said they would be happy to receive care services via the internet. Concerns about confidentiality, website security, and the validity of information found online, means that while veterans have an interest in digital health, face-to-face support remains important.

Increasingly, veterans, in particular younger veterans, are utilising online resources to inform themselves about issues relevant to their mental health. And while we know that the majority of veterans still prefer to engage in mental health services face-to-face, we believe that by incorporating technology into their practice, mental health practitioners can increase the range and reach of services they provide, thereby supporting veterans in their efforts to maintain good mental health.”

Associate Professor Leanne Humphreys, Director, Training and Workforce Development

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