Consider all options for pandemic stress

In spite of many clinical options, people with mental health problems including eating disorders often do not access professional help within the crucial first 12 months – in part due to lack of information in the community about accessing targeted healthcare services.

Anxiety and depression are normal reactions to situations such as pandemic lockdowns but arming yourself with some useful strategies can alleviate this, says Flinders University Distinguished Professor of Psychology Tracey Wade, who has helped launch a new consumer guide on the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) website.

The consumer checklist – aims to help people navigate the system, including younger age group between 16-24 years who might delay or have trouble finding the ‘right’ kind of help.

“The checklist forms a basis for a useful consumer tool in their treatment journey,” says Professor Wade.

“We also hope to monitor its uptake and impact on outcomes for consumers seeking treatment.”

Professor Tracey Wade, Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Psychology.

A study last year ran a survey about the checklist, sending it to people with lived experience and clinicians to seek endorsement and feedback on each checklist item’s helpfulness.

Seventeen people with lived experience and 11 clinicians gave feedback, with both groups rating the checklist as likely to help locate effective treatment earlier.

A separate assessment of self-management of anxiety and depression – using accessible programs of a technique known as ‘low intensity cognitive behaviour therapy’ – also confirmed its usefulness, particularly during the pressures created by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

A randomised trial of ‘unguided’ low intensity CBT was found to decrease signs of anxiety and depression in a comparative study by international experts, including Matthew Flinders Professor Wade, who evaluated results from 225 adults in Australia and the UK.

The majority of participants (96%) rated the intervention as useful, and most (83%) reported they spent 30 min or less reading the guide, with 83% agreeing the intervention was easy to read.

“There is an urgent need to disseminate low intensity psychological therapies to improve mental health in this challenging time,” the researchers conclude.

The results indicate that low intensity cognitive behaviour therapy has efficacy in reducing anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.

See Unguided low intensity cognitive behaviour therapy for anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic: A randomised trial (2021) by SJ Egan, P McEvoy, TD Wade, S Ure, AR Johnson, C Gill, D Greene, L Wilker, R Anderson, TG Mazzucchelli, S Brown and R Shafran has been published in Behaviour Research and Therapy DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2021.103902.

Also, A co-designed consumer checklist to support people with eating disorders to locate evidence-based treatment (2021) by T Wade, S Calvert (Lived Experience Professional, Perth), E Thompson (Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation Ambassador), C Wild (Flinders University), D Mitchison and P Hay (both Western Sydney University),  published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders DOI: 10.1002/eat.23529.

More information:

Flinders University’s Órama Institute for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Neuroscience and SAHMRI’s Wellbeing and Resilience Centre have developed wellbeing interventions and strategies to counter the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.

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College of Education, Psychology and Social Work Flinders University Institute for Mental Health and Wellbeing Research Students