Psychiatrist calls on use of Facebook, Twitter to treat youth mental health

Psychiatrist calls on use of Facebook, Twitter to treat youth mental health

Image: Tom Solari/

While there is now a debate if Facebook and other social media websites could lead to addictions, a psychiatrist is calling for the use of such sites for treating young people suffering from mental health issues.

Talking to the ABC’s AM programme, Associate Professor Jane Burns – who is also the CEO of the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre based in Melbourne – says that Facebook could be used to connect, build networks, and share information.

“What we’ve traditionally said is well, you know, there’s an online world and there’s an offline world. And the offline world is the real world and the online world is the fake world or the make-believe world,” she said.

“Are there ways in which you can talk about their lives and the ways they use technologies that might improve treatment? And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a drug therapy or whether it’s a psychological therapy; it makes sense to have a conversation about what’s going on in the context of a young person’s life.”

She also sees an “online triage”, where young people could seek the information they want and be directed to the appropriate service, based on the level of distress. So if a person needs immediate support, the person gets immediate support online.

“It frees up services to provide the right type of support for those who are in crisis,” Burns said. “Because there’s not a service, there’s a thing called Google; it’s pot luck at the moment in terms of how do young people get into the right service at the right time.”

She is to present a talk about the issue in front of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists this weekend.

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