Bridging the Divide Between Practitioner and Consumer Use of Digital Mental Health

Ms Heidi Sturk1

1Queensland University Of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

Digital mental health services are continuing to find a key place in national mental health service delivery, particularly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers are keen to utilise the variety of services available, however health practitioner recommendations and referrals tend to be much more conservative. Many practitioners understand the benefits, however utilising them with clients can be challenging. They report lack of time to learn about resources, lack of time and skill to introduce resources in sessions, and perception that clients are not receptive to recommendations or referrals to these resources.

eMHPrac is a support service led by Queensland University of Technology and funded by the Australian Government to provide digital mental health training and support to primary care practitioners across the country. In 2020, eMHPrac surveyed health practitioners on their use of digital mental health with clients, perceived barriers, impact of COVID-19, and training requirements. eMHPrac has also continued to collect de-identified annual data on referrals to key Australian service providers to monitor change over time. Feedback from consumers about their use of digital mental health support is also currently underway to inform ongoing development and delivery of training.

This presentation will provide data trends on increasing digital mental health use over the last seven years, specifically in relation to the use of web-based programs and online chat support, and the impact of COVID-19. Practitioner and consumer survey data will be presented, as well as some innovative ideas for improving practitioner confidence in this area.


Heidi is the Director of eMHPrac (e-Mental Health in Practice) at Queensland University of Technology. Heidi delivers national training and support on digital mental health resources to GPs, allied health practitioners and service providers working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. She has a Masters in Organisational Psychology and 25 years’ experience in applied mental health research. Her areas of interest include how to integrate appropriate digital technologies into health care, rural and remote mental health, and wellbeing of health practitioners.

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