AN easy-to-use computer system dubbed the “mental health thermometer” is helping identify mentally ill patients who could be at risk of suicide and self-harm.
Designed by the University of WA School of Psychology and Perth Clinic, the system, which takes the form of a computerised questionnaire, is operating at the West Perth clinic with good results.
Every day, patients fill out questions on touch-screen monitors in the hospital wards asking them about their symptoms and state of mind.
The computer then converts the information into a graph showing how the individual is progressing.
UWA Professor of Psychology Andrew Page said hospital workers then looked at the results and immediately identified patients who might be susceptible to adverse outcomes such as suicide.
“We think it’s like the mental health equivalent of a medical thermometer,” he said.
“A nurse takes your temperature, if it’s too high they know something is wrong. We think you should be able to do the same with mental health – you should be able to detect quickly how people are progressing.
“The mental health thermometer targets people who are not responding to the treatments so we can change treatments quickly and get them on track.”
Professor Page and his group recently received an Australian Research Council Linkage grant of more than $175,000 to continue developing the system, which is now being used every day.