A digital mental health intervention developed by Orygen has been shown to reduce social anxiety symptoms and improve social connection among young people.
Orygen’s Entourage platform was made available for 12 weeks to 89 young people accessing headspace services in north-west Melbourne to determine whether the platform was safe, feasible to use and acceptable for young people experiencing social anxiety.
This was the first study to analyse the use of digital interventions to treat social anxiety in young people.
Entourage, based on Orygen’s MOST (Moderated Online Social Therapy) platform, provides young people experiencing social anxiety with access to evidence-based clinical and peer support, as well as bespoke comics based on evidence-based therapies.
The study results have been published in Internet Interventions.
The study’s lead author, and Orygen principal research fellow, Associate Professor Simon Rice said the results indicated significant improvements to participants’ social anxiety symptoms, mood and feelings of social connectedness.
“One of the most encouraging results from the study was that 98 per cent of participants said they would recommend Entourage to another young person experiencing social anxiety,” Associate Professor Rice said.
“The participants responded to the flexible nature of the platform; they could access support when they needed it and in a way that they had control over.”
Associate Professor Rice said social anxiety could be a precursor to other mental disorders, such as depression or generalised anxiety.
“People often experience social anxiety at a younger age than most other mental disorders first appear. This raises a question of whether we might be able to prevent or delay the development of other mental disorders by first providing better support to young people experiencing social anxiety,” he said.
Secondary analysis of the results demonstrated that young men engaged with the platform at rates comparable to other gender groups.
Associate Professor Rice said young men typically experience low rates of mental health service use and higher rates of discontinuation of service use.
“Young men in Australia are significantly more likely to die by suicide and engage in risk-taking behaviours, problematic alcohol use and interpersonal violence than young people from other gender groups,” he said.
“If interventions such as Entourage can support young men to learn more adaptive coping strategies and lower the likelihood of placing themselves, and others, at risk – that’s a win for everybody.”
The study was funded by the Movember Foundation and Beyond Blue as part of the Social Innovators Challenge.