E-Mental Health

Led by Associate Professor Mario Alverez-Jimenez, the eOrygen team creates lovable, engaging and effective evidence based technology-based interventions for young people and their families.

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The eOrygen team creates lovable, engaging and effective evidence based technology-based interventions for young people and their families. eOrygen is a collaboration between Orygen: The National Centre of Youth Mental Health, The Australian Catholic University, The Centre for Youth Mental Health at Melbourne University and The University of Melbourne’s Department of Computing and Information Systems.

eOrygen’s mission is to reinvent youth mental health services through science and technology. eOrygen is led by:

  • Associate Professor Mario Alvarez-Jimenez

Head, ehealth: Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health

International leader in technology-based interventions and youth mental health.

  • Professor John Gleeson

National Head: School of Psychology, The Australian Catholic University

John is the co-founder of the ehealth division at Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence inYouth Mental Health and an international leader in online social media interventions for young people and their families.

The multidisciplinary eOrygen team consist of clinical psychologists and allied health professionals, computer programmers, award winning comic artists and professional writers, youth engagement staff, trained peer workers, mobile developers, virtual reality experts and health informatics experts. Together, the team design, test and build a range of online social media and technology-based interventions. The ultimate goals of eOrygen are to reduce the risk of relapse in young people experiencing mental illness, to help young people and their families to experience a rich sense of accomplishment, meaning and purpose in their lives and to eliminate the barriers to seeking help for a mental health condition by creating free, intuitive online therapeutic platforms that encourage and sustain positive social connection between users. Our technology-based interventions have been designed to be integrated with and to dramatically enhance the effectiveness of youth mental health services at all stages of mental health support including help seeking, integrated face to face and online support, and long-term recovery and relapse prevention.

The online platforms developed by eOrygen combine a unique range of tools and professional supports. Some of the current tools and supports in use on the platforms include:

  • Personalised one to one support in real time from clinical youth mental health professionals and trained peer workers.
  • Therapeutic content in the form of vibrant comics that are informed by positive psychology principles.
  • A secure social network that protects young people’s privacy and promotes autonomy.
  • An evidence based, interactive problem solving tool that enables young people and families to collaboratively develop relevant solutions to complex and everyday problems.
  • A series of small behavioural experiments called Do Its, which invite young people to take actions both online and offline to boost their confidence, self-efficacy and sense of accomplishment.

The eOrygen team are serious about reinventing the way in which mental health services are delivered to young people and their families.

The eOrygen team currently oversee the following projects:

  • horyzons: The horyzons study is a world first 5 year randomised control trial designed to promote long term recovery in young people who have experienced a first episode of psychosis. Young people on this platform are recruited from The EPPIC (Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre) clinic at Orygen Youth Health and the interventions are specifically geared towards promoting confidence, self-efficacy and reducing social isolation in young people after they have been discharged from Orygen’s outpatient program. The horyzons project is made possible by generous funding from The Mental Illness Research Fund, State Government of Victoria and the Telstra Foundation.

  • Generation: Generation is a partnership between MOST and headspace Australia. Generation will be integrated for a three-month period within eheadspace, headspace’s online phone and web chat counselling service for young people aged 12 to 25 and their families.Generation will offer young people access to real time web chat counselling with a clinical youth mental health professional, therapeutic, strengths based content in the form of comics and a secure social network where young people can interact anonymously with other young people and trained peer workers.Generation will be the first trial of its kind in the world to test the effectiveness of MOST as a short-term online mental health care intervention.

  • Entourage: The overarching aim of entourage is to develop a sustainable social enterprise for the delivery of gender-sensitive online interventions for young men experiencing social anxiety. Entourage hopes to reduce loneliness and isolation and to improve social connectedness and social functioning in young men experiencing social anxiety. The Entourage twelve-week pilot study will be conducted with participants aged 18-25 years who will be recruited from headspace services in North West Melbourne. Entourage would not be possible without the generous grants awarded by The Movember Foundation, The Telstra Foundation, Telstra Gurrowa Innovation Lab, The Social Connectedness Laboratory at Swinburne University of Technology and headspace: Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation.
  • Affinity: Affinity is the first trial to assess how best to integrate face-to-face and online mental health services in young people experiencing suicidal ideation. For this twelve week trial, young people aged 18-24 who are experiencing thoughts about and contemplating suicide will be recruited from the Mood Clinic at Orygen Youth Health.Affinity is seeking to align with World Health Organisation recommendations that online and face-to-face mental health services be better integrated and tailored to empower and build the resilience, self efficacy and confidence of young people in need of professional mental health support. Affinity will therefore seek to compliment not replace existing in person health services.

  • #yotes: Young people who experience mental illness are three times more likely to have difficulty maintaining their commitments at school, university and work. Past research has however indicated that young people who experience a mental illness rate returning to and thriving at work, school and university as among their top goals in recovery. The MOST team, in partnership with The University of Melbourne, The Australian Catholic University, Jobs Victoria, headspace and Whitelion is developing a comprehensive web-based support package for 200 young Victorians aged between 15 and 24 who have or are experiencing barriers to obtaining meaningful employment and remaining at school or university. #yotes is designed to compliment existing face to face services and over the course of two years will offer specialised vocational therapeutic content, personalised career support in real time from vocational professionals and youth peer workers as well as access to a vibrant social network where young people can enjoy meaningful social connections with other young people. If the pilot is successful, the MOST team together with Orygen hope to roll the program out to thousands of young people across Australia.
  • Altitudes: Altitudes uses the MOST team’s technology to support the families and carers of young people who are receiving treatment for a first episode of Psychosis through the EPPIC clinic at Orygen Youth Health. Altitudes aim is to reduce the stress experienced by families and carers and to improve their overall sense of wellbeing and confidence in caring for a loved one with an experience of psychosis. Like many of the MOST platforms, Altitudes offers families free online access to personalised support in real time from expert clinicians and trained peer workers who themselves have supported a family member through a mental illness together with specialised therapeutic content and collaborative problem solving tools. Altitudes is a two year randomised control trial made possible by The Australian Catholic University’s Research Fund.
  • Kindred: MOST’s Kindred is designed to support and reduce the social isolation of the families and carers of young people receiving treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder through the outpatient program at Orygen Youth Health. Much like Altitudes, Kindred integrates a secure social network with personalised clinical and peer moderation together with collaborative problem solving tools and evidence based therapeutic content. Kindred is a pilot study aimed at reducing the stress and increasing the resilience of carers and family members who are supporting a young person experiencing Borderline Personality Disorder.
  • YETI: The Youth Engagement and Training Initiative (YETI) was developed by MOST in partnership with the Youth Engagement and Participation team at Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health. YETI is a social networking platform designed for young people aged 16 to 25 who are passionate about having a role in shaping the way in which youth mental health services are designed and delivered. The platform features specialised content that helps to orientate young people to youth mental health, policy and advocacy, relevant youth specific academic research, public speaking and also provides young people with exclusive access to a range of youth engagement programs and groups in Victoria and around Australia. Yeti is a space where young people can critique and champion existing services and develop novel ideas for improving them, under the guidance of youth participation professionals from the four different departments within Orygen.

  • PPEP: Positive Psychology in Early Psychosis. The PPEP study is investigating the acceptability and effects of an integrated face-to-face and technology-based intervention (through a mobile application entitled Strength-UP) focused on promoting personal strengths and improving social functioning in young people with psychosis. Achieving social functioning is the most valued goal by young people with psychosis, yet current treatments have focused on symptoms management with very little impact on improving this important domain of recovery.

  • MIND: MIND is an innovative project aimed at developing a virtual reality application designed to transport young people into their own minds.  Through MIND young people will learn about how emotions and cognitive processes influence their behaviour and wellbeing. Young people will be able to interact and manipulate their own thinking processes, entering an empowering journey of self-discovery.

The eOrygen team also work with passionate, driven students and researchers who have a particular interest in building world class online mental health interventions for young people and their families. Indeed, much of the work the team do would not be possible without the curiosity and dedication of its many research students and partners.

If you have an untamed passion for working with the eOrygen team to continue the creative work they do please email Research@Orygen.org.au.