07:40pm Sunday 17 December 2017

Online mental health support after floods, cyclone

The website www.ontrack.org.au has a new program specifically aimed at Queenslanders impacted by 2011’s natural disasters.

The OnTrack Flood and Storm Recovery program was funded by Queensland Health as part of its disaster recovery response. The program was a natural fit for the OnTrack website, originally created in 2009 as a resource for the large numbers of Australians who don’t access healthcare services because of factors such as distance and cost.

“In the first phase of disaster recovery the emphasis should be on helping people to work through practical problems, put together a plan to rebuild their lives and make use of their available support networks,” said Dr Dawn Proctor, from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI).

“The program, available at www.ontrack.org.au/floodandstormrecovery, guides people towards identifying their strengths, coping resources and support mechanisms to help them think about how to move forward and where to start.

“It also has quizzes for people to check how they’re doing from a psychological perspective and get feedback. This may direct some people to a page called ‘Get Help’ which details important support services.

“The focus of this initial program is not on the treatment of psychological responses, such as low mood, trauma symptoms, panic, grief and loss, but on emphasising personal strengths, promoting resilience and helping people to think more clearly about some of the challenges they might be facing.”

Dr Proctor said that OnTrack programs could be used on their own or in combination with face-to-face contact with a psychologist or counsellor.

“This depends on the level of support the person feels they might need. However, the benefits are still significant for those who don’t have access to specialist treatments due to cost, time or geographical barriers,” she said.

“In addition to the Flood and Storm Recovery program, we have other, more general, OnTrack programs which cover concerns about low mood, risky drinking, unusual perceptual experiences and reactions.

“There is also a program to help families and friends caring for somebody with a mental health problem due to the significant challenges they often face.”

Media contact: Michaela Ryan, QUT media officer, 07 3138 4494 or michaela.ryan@qut.edu.au

**High res image of Dr Proctor available for media use.


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