Free computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CCBT) for depression has been made available online after a deal between software developers Ultrasis and the Mental Health Foundation.
The online self-help program, Depression Relief, is available for a free four-week trial from a link on the Mental Health Foundation website. The system is a cut-down version of Ultrasis’ Beating the Blues and will run between now and 3 January, 2007.
Moira Frasier, head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation, told E-Health Insider: “The Depression Relief website will be like a self-help group online, based on CBT principles and detailing alternative forms of therapy for help. It will allow users to check for help themselves, rather than spend a long time waiting for availability to see your hospital CBT therapy specialist.”
Ultrasis already work with the NHS using CBT with its Beating the Blues computer based treatment for depression. The software is initially being rolled out in Newham and Doncaster as part of a pilot scheme, with a view to full implementation across the NHS by March 2007.
The free Depression Relief software is a specially-created, patient-accessible version of the Beating the Blues software. It will allow users to go at their own pace through each step, learning self-help techniques to manage their own condition.
Frasier told EHI: “Often, you find that searching for therapy online doesn’t always give patients the best choices and recommends non-prescription drugs as remedies. Depression Relief will offer patients proper therapy and they can see other patients’ feedback as a motivation tool.”
Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, added: “CBT is widely recognised as one of the most effective methods for treating depression, yet there is a major shortage of therapists. Most people who want to try CBT have to join long NHS waiting lists or pay to see a therapist privately.
“While online CBT is not a replacement for face-to-face therapy, we need to start investigating other supporting treatments that with mental health problems can use.”
Nigel Brabbins, chief executive of Ultrasis, said that they hoped the free trial would help to raise awareness of available CBT therapy options.
“We want people to know that the tools and techniques for prevention and treatment are available without having to wait to see a therapist. Cost-effective online programs need to be more widely available and we hope to reach as many people as possible through the Mental Health Foundation’s website who may want help when NHS services are not available.”
In February 2006, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommended Beating the Blues and another package called FearFighter for people with mild panic and phobia.