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Indicator for mental health


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Professor Andrew Page and Dr Madeleine Hope with the ‘mental health thermometer’.  Picture: Andrew Ritchie    Professor Andrew Page and Dr Madeleine Hope with the ‘mental health thermometer’. Picture: Andrew Ritchie Buy this photo

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.

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What everyone else is thinking

Ian White


Where is the science in a questionaire? The whole subject of mental health is being hijacked by vested interests pushing their agenda instead of finding out what is wrong with the person. If the medical brain theory was accurate by now there would be actual tests that could be performed, some kind of scan etc. Asking questions and having a slant on the outcome is not medical science. It is subjective statistical interpretation at best and to use it as a tool for postulated illness is simply junk science.

Any money spent should be to find the real underlying causes of the symptoms, the real pathology. People are suffering in our mental health system with little alternatives to drugs; poor attitudes and indifferest labels are being slapped on them from brief chats and questions. They don't need more stigmatising with computer program questions. These days whatever the treatment, it means drugs.

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