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Minister gets sneak preview of new OCD treatment

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Federal Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Jacinta Collins got a sneak preview of a new online treatment for young people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), when she visited Curtin University this morning.

Curtin University researchers are developing the OCD? Not Me! program, which is a Teleweb project, with the assistance of a $464,476 grant from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.

The program has been funded for two-and-a-half years and the online service is aimed specifically at young people aged between 12 and 18.

Associate Professor Clare Rees, the principal investigator on the project alongside co-investigator Dr Rebecca Anderson, said people with OCD became preoccupied with negative thoughts and behaviours that could control their lives.

“They may have rituals or strong compulsions to do certain things repeatedly, in order to banish daunting thoughts,” she said.

“This can include repeated hand washing, checking of doors, switches and appliances, to having to complete mental checklists or keep objects in straight lines.

“When OCD is severe, the obsessions can be extremely distressing for a young person and impacts their academic, social and family life.”

Minister Collins said around three in every 100 people – or more than 450,000 Australians – would develop OCD at some time in their lives.

“The OCD? Not me! program being developed at Curtin University is part of our first ever national e-mental health strategy that is delivering cost-effective help to thousands of Australians in their homes,” Minister Collins said.

“The Labor Government has committed a record $2.2 billion to mental health reform over five years to expand accessibility of evidence-based mental health services and build a cohesive mental health system.”

The program will provide techniques and tips for families to help them assist young people to overcome the anxiety disorder.

Associate Professor Rees said online treatments were a cost-effective, flexible, accessible way for clients to receive treatment, especially for people who were reluctant to undertake face-to-face therapy or who lacked access to services.

“The service will include a national referral network so that individuals needing additional help will be linked to useful facilities in their area,” she said.

The service is free and fully automated, with potential participants undertaking an online assessment to evaluate their suitability for the program.

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