Internet-based therapy to reduce suicide in rural areas

THE Black Dog Institute is running a trial of an online self-help program to tackle the growing rate of suicide in regional Australia. 

Suicide is the biggest cause of death amongst Australians aged 15-44. It occurs more often than death by skin cancer or motor vehicle accident, yet we know comparatively little about the processes that lead to suicide and how and when to effectively intervene.

Suffering from suicidal thoughts is a common experience for about 400,000 Australian adults every year.

Recent studies suggest that regional Australia have experienced a disproportionate increase in suicide and that suicide prevention activities are either less effective or not well targeted to this group.

While incidence of some mental health problems is higher in regional areas, the rate of psychological problems managed by general practitioners is lower, as is use of specialist mental health services and medications such as anti-depressants.  This could be because of the perceived stigma attached to seeking help.

To counter this trend, researchers here and across the world are turning to the internet to deliver education and self-help skills to rural residents.

Internet-based therapy programs are an effective means of mental health service delivery, and the study of web-based interventions for suicide is a new and important field of research that has huge potential for helping to address the gap between service provision and unmet need for rural and remote communities.

Studies of internet-based programs have shown that over 20% of spontaneous users are from rural or remote areas, indicating how strong the demand is. The benefits of internet programs such as this is that they are anonymous, can be undertaken around rural work schedules, do not require lengthy travel to consultations and provide a means for rural residents to manage their own health. They can be used without input from a clinician, or as an adjunct to treatment by the busy rural GP.

The Black Dog Institute, in collaboration with ANU, is running a trial of an online self-help program, 'Healthy Thinking'. It has been developed using clinically proven treatment programs that we know can alter thoughts and behaviour (e.g. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). The main goal of the program is to help users decrease the frequency and intensity of their suicidal thoughts. The program also addresses rumination and worry - aspects that contribute to the distressing repetitive and uncontrollable thoughts that many people experience.

This trial is now recruiting for participants. People can read more about the trial on our research page at  and register their interest in taking part in the trial at  Medical and allied health professionals are also urged to encourage suitable individuals to register.

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