[Sub ID 4844] Improving the mental health of young carers (The Cairnmillar Institute)

Submission ID: 4844
Organisation name: The Cairnmillar Institute
Contact name: Prof. Ben Richardson
State: VIC
Contact email: ben.richardson@cairnmillar.edu.au
Contact number: 0421705617

Which priority group of the Try, Test and Learn Fund does your idea support?
Young carers

What need or issue are you trying to address?
Relative to age-matched and SES-matched counterparts, young carers struggle to enter the workforce and maintain employment therein (Cass et al., 2009). While this is certainly attributable to the time commitment that caregiving requires and the need for flexible working arrangements, the act of caregiving also places a toll on mental health. This strain on mental health greatly undermines a carer’s motivation and capacity to look for work, and to successfully undertake tasks required of the employment they may have secured (McGorry et al., 2007). Targeting mental health of young carers may thus be an effective way to improve their daily functioning and participation and productivity in the workforce.

Although caring can be a positive experience, many young carers are particularly vulnerable to mental illness because they have insufficient coping skills, limited awareness of their mental health symptoms, and insufficient social support networks (DSS, 2002). While a range of private, state-funded, and federally-funded support services are already available, time and financial pressures associated with caregiving make accessing these services and resources in a physical location within set hours of business difficult to achieve. Thus, comprehensive, flexible, and affordable approaches are needed to support the mental health needs of young caregivers.

What is your idea?
We propose to support the mental health of young carers (and, in turn, to increase their capacity to work) through the development and deployment of an app-based platform containing a modularized, evidence-based intervention program.

This platform builds on our earlier work using smartphone apps (e.g., StressLess) to help young carers:
(a) alleviate daily stressors and symptoms of mental illness
(b) build resilience and coping skills.

Our existing app provides an evidence-based intervention comprising a range of flexibly delivered content. Individual activities are short audio files (also available as text) that can be completed quickly. The taught skills and techniques are reinforced through interactive elements within the app. The app encourages clients to self-monitor their wellbeing to increase self-awareness of symptoms.

We propose to substantially extend the functionality of our platform to:
(a) expand the intervention program materials
(b) use machine learning to tailor the presentation of intervention materials to more effectively meet individual carer needs and facilitate the provision of ‘just in time’ support
(c) embed information into the app to raise young carers’ awareness of available support services
(d) provide functionality that allows clients to share data collected about their health and wellbeing with health professionals