When mental health support is only as far away as your phone

Healthshare Connect is accessible from any device with a web browser.
Healthshare Connect is accessible from any device with a web browser. Photo: Letizia Le Fur

The early weeks and months of life with a newborn are exciting. However new parenthood can also be overwhelming, daunting and stressful.  

The demands of caring for a baby coupled with the exhaustion that comes with sleep deprivation means mums often struggle to find time to shower, let alone take care of their mental health.

Now a new App launched by health-tech company Healthshare allows people to access professional mental health support without having to leave home - or even get out of their pyjamas.

Connect is a secure messaging platform which supports people's mental wellbeing by connecting them with a qualified Australian therapist via a smart phone or web browser.

Healthshare Clinical Director Alysha Casey says while the Connect App is available to anyone seeking mental health support, the fact it is easily accessed at any time of day or night makes it a perfect service for new parents.

"It provides an option for those unable to or not interested in seeking face to face consultations," Ms Casey says.

"Often mothers are at home with a new baby and are simply unable to find time to attend a consultation.

"Connect is very flexible. The client and the therapist agree how often to communicate with each other.

"It allows people to jump on and send a message to their therapist whenever they have time."

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Connect users and their therapists usually communicate three to four times a week, although some may communicate daily, and all messages to therapists are responded to within 24 hours.

All messages sent via Connect are fully encrypted and conversations can only ever be viewed by the therapist and client. 

According to mental health information service Mindframe, each year approximately one in five Australians will experience a mental health problem.

A national survey showed only 35 per cent of people with a mental health problem had contacted a health service in the previous 12 months.

Ms Casey points out that Connect is not for those who have been diagnosed with severe mental illness, who have suicidal thoughts or have been advised they require psychiatric care.

Instead it is for those seeking support for their mental health who are not currently able to access it.

"All Connect therapists are bound by the same ethical system that any other health practitioner is bound by," she says.

"There will be some people who will be in need of more support. For others having contact each day and that ongoing sense of support from somebody is very helpful." 

Users of Connect can initially maintain some anonymity and are only required to provide a user name and email address to begin the process. If consultations continue, the user will be asked to provide an emergency contact.

When it comes to parenthood it is not only mums who can benefit from accessing mental health support.

One of Ms Casey's clients is a the father of a 20-month-old daughter who is struggling to manage the balance between owning a business, looking after his busy family life, while also managing his physical and mental health.

The 38-year-old, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the Connect consultations have helped him.  

"I have been using the Connect system to communicate with Alysha for about a month and a half now," he said.

"Overall I am completely in love with the system – being able to have more regular interaction with my therapist has made a massive difference in the effectiveness of my therapy."

Connect costs $35 per week with new users currently being offered a one week free trial period.

For more information, or to access the Connect app so to www.healthshare.com.au/connect/.