National depression organisation beyondblue has announced it will fund a new research program to target depression in same-sex attracted youth (SSAY).

The funding was announced at beyondblue’s annual research forum on October 6 as part of a $1 million package for new research grants.

After coming under fire for neglecting GLBTI mental health, beyondblue has made SSAY a focus area in this round of funding, with $124,857 awarded to Swinburne University for research into an online early intervention model to tackle depression for those struggling with their sexuality.

Swinburne researcher, associate professor Britt Klein told Southern Star Observer the research project aims to improve the mental health of young people by assessing for a range of anxiety and depression symptoms online, in a GLBTI-friendly way.

“One of the biggest issues that affects same-sex attracted youth is that they do not use a great deal of the traditional services that exist, so what we’re trying to overcome here is a different way of [offering] early intervention in the area of anxiety or depression,” she said.

The research project will be based on an existing program called Anxiety Online, which will be tailored to suit SSAY.

The online program offers users information on depression and anxiety, and treatment can be provided through an ‘etherapy’ program.

“Primarily our goal with this has been to provide something for the gay and lesbian community in terms of resources. It’s been one of those areas that’s been underfunded or hasn’t been done in the past,” Klein said.
“So instead of providing generic information, we want to try and contextualise that.”

Earlier this year, beyondblue was heavily criticised for excluding GLBTI youth in the organisation’s new, draft Clinical Practice Guidelines on Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults.

Klein said an online model has the ability to reach a wide audience.

“It has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands who choose to use it in a cost-effective manner, so it makes a lot of sense to be providing that type of information and option for people.”

Beyondblue deputy CEO Nicole Highet told SSO beyondblue will also undertake a community awareness campaign.

“This is what the community said they really wanted and beyondblue was well placed,” she said. “We’re funding the research and development of the campaign, but we’re very much wanting it to be a partnership with beyondblue and the GLBTI community.”

The national campaign is set to be rolled out over the next year. A steering committee made up of GLBTI community members will guide the campaign.

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