The internet is where most of us now go for information and advice. Young people have grown up with this technology, so their automatic response is to go online if they are dealing with some type of problem. The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) in Australia have been attempting to utilise this resource more effectively in order to help young people (individuals aged between 18 and 25 years of age) break away from alcoholism and symptoms of depression.
The DEAL Project
The NDARC has called this internet experiment DEAL – this stands for depression and alcohol. It is the first program of its kind to attempt to deal with these problems together. It makes sense because there is a strong link between alcohol abuse and depression. Many young people dealing with depression will fall into this behaviour in an attempt to self-medicate. It is believed that at least 15% of young people who are dealing with depression will fall into alcohol abuse.
The DEAL project is an attempt to conduct interventions online. The plan is to target the large population of young people who are dealing with depression but not receiving any type of help (this is believed to be around 75 per cent of cases). It is hoped that by using modern technology to reach these individuals, more can be done to help them so they avoid using alcohol as a coping strategy.
Only one quarter of young people in Australia are willing to get help for symptoms of mental illness (a similar situation exists here in the UK). In many of these cases, the person might not even realise they are dealing with depression; they just know that they do not feel right and that alcohol seems to help. Even if their symptoms continue to deteriorate, the person can remain unwilling to seek out professional help, often because of the stigma associated with mental illness.
The aim of the DEAL project is to seek out the people dealing with addiction problems. The internet is an environment where these individuals already feel comfortable, so it makes sense to seek them out there. The intervention provided by NDARC involves teaching young people more effective ways of dealing with the symptoms of depression. This means there will be less need for them to turn to alcohol for comfort. This intervention is also going to educate them about the dangers of alcohol abuse and how it will ultimately make their depression worse.
The DEAL program is delivered over a four-week period – one module is provided every week. The content is made up of evidence-based coping strategies and other tools for dealing with the symptoms of depression. The person is also taught how to monitor their mood and drinking habits.
Using the Internet to Combat Alcoholism and Depression
The DEAL project is a great idea and hopefully we can expect similar programs to be offered here in the UK. The link between depression and alcoholism is undeniable, yet the two conditions are usually treated separately. There is also not enough being done to make contact with people who do not feel able to access services offline.
The internet has been a great help for tackling addiction problems and every type of metal health disorder. There are now many online communities where people gather to help each other deal with these conditions. Times have changed and it is important that any agency trying to help people deal with depression and alcoholism utilise the internet.