Website connects community with vital mental health care

A WEBSITE run from Melbourne is the latest Australian innovation in providing world-leading health services, linking psychologists and would-be clients.

Psychologist Anywhere's website has the capacity to help regional and rural parts of Australia - especially in mining communities- when resources are being stretched.

Creator and managing director Michael Marcus said he designed the site after a close relative explained the challenge facing clients needing to find a psychologist who "clicked" with them.

He said the importance of someone's comfort was paramount when seeking help, and the website meant interested clients could meet a potential psychologist online before selecting them.

"I came up with this concept of an online psychologist service provision using (video chat program) Skype," Mr Marcus said.

"It is not exceptionally new, some psychologists offer the service from their own websites."

"But I wanted to provide lots of psychologists for lots of clients."

He told APN that clients and psychologists signed up for free, with professionals listing their specialities and experience.

If interested, the client or patient sends a note through the website or clicks a button that reads, "I'm available now if you want to contact me" and they can connect instantly.

"I think this access to technology for regional Queensland or regional anywhere, even inside big cities is important - people don't know where to find psychologists," Mr Marcus said.

A person can then meet with the psychologist as needed without having to leave their computer screen.

The site is still in its infancy, but already a number of psychologists have signed up.

Queensland University of Technology professor of psychology David Kavanagh said the profession as a whole was spreading beyond the traditional office.

Prof Kavanagh - who has a sharp interest in online psychology - said the site was like a "classifieds for psychologists".

"In principle, it's a really good thing," he said.

"We're in a situation where people with psychological problems do not access care.

"One way to service them is to provide it from a distance, through Skype."

He said mining companies across Queensland were already using psychologists beamed-in remotely to help shortages of health care in booming towns.

Prof Kavanagh said the Federal Department of Health and Ageing already had online mental health programs.

"We're actually leading the world in this area," he said.

"It's absolutely staggering considering we're only a minor player."

Mr Marcus said there was no charge for clients or professionals to use the site.


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