headspace – Policies and
Directions to Find a
Balance in the Use of
Social Media
Facing up to Facebook Symposium
25 November 2011
Beth Smith
About headspace...
The aim of headspace is to reduce the burden of disease
amongst young people aged 12–25 caused by mental health
and related substance use problems.
headspace is Australia’s National Youth Mental Health
headspace provides mental and health wellbeing support,
information & services to young people (12 – 25) and their
families across Australia
headspace has approximately 40 centres throughout Australia
and growing...
Why headspace as a medium
for online & phone counselling?
Mental health problems and related problematic alcohol and
substance use is the most important health issue affecting young
75% of mental health problems among adults commence before age
25 years, and up to 50% of substance use problems are preceded by
mental health problems in youth (Kessler 2005)
Receiving help early protects against the development of severe
mental disorders and suicidal thinking (Greenberg et al 2001,
Rickwood et al 2007)
Currently only 1in 4 young people experiencing mental health
problems actually receives professional help
Getting help
We know that getting help early for mental
health difficulties and mental illness can really
make a difference.
So why don’t many young people get help....
Why don't young people seek
• Mental health literacy
• Specific beliefs
• Stigma associated about mental health
• Lack of services
• Bad reputation of services
• Fear of the unknown
• Concerns around confidentiality
• Belief that treatment won’t help
• Preferring to deal with problem alone
• Not youth friendly
• Complex service system
What do young people want?
• Youth friendly environment
• Non-judgemental and informal services
• Flexible approaches
• Services that can help with both mental illness and alcohol & drug
• Services that will help you after you turn 18
• Services that employ workers who like young people and
understand the things that happen in young people’s lives
• Services that can see you straight away when you need help
(Francis et al, 2006; Dixon and Lloyd, 2005; YACSA, 2006)
ecounselling may have advantages of:
• allowing clients easier and more convenient access to
• allowing clients to open up in a pressure free environment
• allowing both client and counsellor to come to the point quickly
• reducing ambiguity in the communication of issues, interventions
• possibly reducing the effects of stigma associated with mental
health issues and settings (Tylee et al., 2007).
So what is this thing
called eheadspace?.......
eheadspace is:
• Aiming to take the clinical expertise of youth mental health to
new mediums – online and telephone
• A confidential, free and secure space where a young person
or their family can web chat, email or speak on the phone with
a qualified youth mental health professional
• NOT a crisis service
• Where if inappropriate for mental health issues to be
addressed online – young people will be supported and
encouraged to attend face to face services
Young people presenting with a broad range of mental health
issues including:
• Depression
• Parental mental health difficulties
• Deliberate self-harming behaviours
• History of abuse/sexual assault
• Suicidal thoughts
• Relationship difficulties
• Bereavement
• Obsessive compulsive disorder
• Anxiety
• Psychotic symptoms
• Borderline personality disorder
• Vocational
• Homelessness
• Recent sexual assault
• Parental drug use
• Eating difficulties
(undiagnosed eating disorders)
• Bullying
The range of interventions provided include:
• Cognitive behavioural strategies
• Relaxation techniques
• Mood monitoring
• Alternatives to self harming behaviours
• Supportive counselling
• Crisis intervention
• Engagement
• Psychoeducation
• Supported referral to face-to-face services
Going forward
headspace successfully tendered to expand and further develop
this service
• Promoted to rural and regional communities
• Expanded operating hours per day, eheadspace’s online component
now12 hours per day since October 1PM-1AM AEST
• eheadspace free call telephone number
1800 650 890
We need to interact with young
people online.... but we must be
• headspace National Office recognises the need to have a policy
around the use of social media which includes
• Key Guiding Principles :
- Duty of Care
- Respect and Inclusiveness
- Honesty and Transparency
- Professionalism
- Confidentiality
• Managing Social Media Profiles ensuring:
- Clear responsibilities e.g. a Social Media Team
- Appropriate Content and Inclusiveness
- Moderation – check at regular intervals
- Clinical Responses – Procedure in place to act on any
posts that need have a clinical element
Covering all bases
• Social media policy also covers the use of social media by
headspace employees
• Appendices to the Social Media Policy include:
- Risk mitigation strategy to avoid/minimise/respond to :cyber
bullying; inappropriate information or images; posts about
self-harm/intent to suicide; defamatory or offensive comments
- Helpline info
- Handy fact sheet ‘Tips for safe social networking’
- Protective reporting procedures and guidelines, and relevant
Risk Report Form
And what about facebook
in ‘my place’?
600 + ‘friends’
Have a profile and a page
Checked daily by our on-site moderator
Includes special events e.g. RUOK? Day
Centre Closures – public holidays
Updates and reminders of available services post-suicide
New policy and handbook documents have triggered improved
practices – instead of everyone being our ‘friend’ we have it that they
choose to just ‘like’ us/subscribe to see our info!
So we are learning all the time too...
Young people are reluctant to use conventional mental health
services. Online services are more accessible, can deliver
effective interventions, and provide a bridge to clinical services
Whilst acknowledging that not all mental health problems can be
appropriately addressed online – the opportunity now exists to
provide information and to sign post services to those young
people who are known to be less likely to be reached by
traditional methods – young men, LGBTI, Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander, CALD and rural and remote Australians.
Thank You
Beth Smith
Cornerstone Youth Services/headspace Northern Tasmania
Tel: 03 6335 3100
Email: [email protected]

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