Journey to the HORYZON: not just another online mental health intervention
HORYZONS is not just another online intervention. I am proud to say it is the first Internet platform to integrate online social networking, effective interactive psychological interventions, and peer and expert multidisciplinary support. HORYZONS is the first project harnessing novel communication technologies to address some of the biggest challenges that still remain in the treatment of psychosis.
Psychosis is a serious mental health condition that typically hits young people in the prime of their youth, in that period when we form our identity and independence. The impact of psychosis at this time can have devastating long-term consequences including stigma, severe social isolation, and long-term unemployment.
At Orygen Youth Health Research Centre we have been working for 2 decades on providing young people with early, innovative and effective mental health treatments. This pioneering work has influenced early psychosis treatments worldwide.
Our goal is to not only reduce the symptoms of psychosis, but to help young people get their lives back on track. This means helping them to resume education or work, re-build social supports, and maintain their mental and physical health. Although current treatments are effective, they are not accessible to everyone; stigma about psychosis can prevent young people from seeking help, mental health resources are extremely limited, and for those who are able to access good treatment, it is time limited and the risk of relapse without ongoing support remains high. HORYZONS was created in an attempt to tackle these challenges.
We started the HORYZONS journey 2 years ago with the support of the Telstra Foundation, and in partnership with the Department of computing and information systems at the University of Melbourne, and Australian Catholic University. A team of passionate and creative experts from a range of diverse fields worked closely with consumers at Orygen Youth Health to develop an innovative online platform to support young people with psychosis on their road to recovery.
Empowering online tool
HORYZONS is an empowering online tool designed to help young people discover their own pathway forward with the support of peers and access to a range of professionals (i.e. clinical psychologists, employment consultants, dietitians, etc) and psychological interventions in an integrated and fun way. In HORYZONS users drive their own recovery, as well as supporting others on their own journeys of self-discovery.
Outcomes from the trial
A recent trial of HORYZONS had exciting and promising feedback. Users found it to be a safe and supportive space (“.. It’s a peer-support thing. It’s a place where you can feel comfortable just talking about what’s going on, and what you have been through” ), which was easy to access and free of stigma (“you can always use HORYZONS, when you are feeling low and you don’t want to talk to people face-to-face, it’s not judgmental, it’s accepting”).
Users found the psychological therapy relevant and meaningful (“everything is related to the next thing, everything is progressive, everything is linked, its like a book but related to you, I like reading it and thinking over it”), and benefits of social networking and peer support to their own recovery (“..makes you feel good about yourself when you help others… its kind of like hey, I was like that before, and hey look what I am now’).
The next step in the HORYZONS adventure is larger trials to test its effectiveness in bringing about long-term benefits. If the results continue to be positive, HORYZONS has the potential to revolutionise the long-term treatment of young people with psychosis and will be incorporated into the national roll-out of a further 16 EPPIC programs (Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centres) over the next 5 years.
We are grateful to the Telstra Foundation for their ongoing support in enabling us to harness the potential of novel technologies with science to bridge the gap in treatments for young people suffering from psychosis.