Free online counselling therapy for anxiety and depression is being provided nationally following the success of an initial pilot.
Some 88 per cent of patients who presented with severe anxiety and depressions experienced significantly reduced symptoms after the online counselling sessions, the pilot found.
After two months of digitally-delivered cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), 57 per cent of users with a clinical diagnosis of anxiety and depression were found to be “diagnosis-free”.
The service is paid for by the HSE and available to people referred by GPs, primary care psychologists, the national counselling service and Jigsaw mental health charity.
Treatment generally takes about eight to 12 weeks and decisions on treatment are made by clinicians supporting service users, according to SilverCloud, an online provider of mental health supports which has been contracted by the HSE to provide the service.
The Covid-19 forced many mental health services online for a period, but also opened up access, according to HSE assistant national director for mental health operations Jim Ryan.
“Many people can receive effective treatment for mental health difficulties at primary care level and we know that early intervention can make a huge difference.
“Programmes like SilverCloud, with clinical oversight, will provide timely support to people who might otherwise have to wait for a face-to-face consultation.
The HSE will continue to invest in online service in order to improve access for appropriate supports, he said.
SilverCloud says outcomes continue to improve with continued engagement with the programme beyond 12 weeks.
Where patients have more serious mental health needs, clinical governance structures are in place to escalate cases, it says.