The web may be key to youth alcoholism and depression

THE National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre is hopeful the first trial of an online intervention to help treat combined depression and alcohol abuse in young people will encourage more people to seek help.

While other e-health interventions have targeted depression or alcohol use individually, The DEAL Project - for DEpression and ALcohol - is the first online brief intervention that aims to address both conditions together, in a program specially designed for young people.

Online delivery will target the more than 75% of young people with mental health disorders who don't access health services and builds on existing and proven e-health treatments for the general population.

NDARC researchers, who developed the program with input from young Australians, say the intervention is especially important because it circumvents many of the barriers that currently prevent young people seeking treatment.

Research has shown that less than a quarter of young Australians with mental disorders seek treatment due to impediments such as geographical isolation and perceived stigma.

The DEAL Project will target 18-25 year olds and will teach evidence-based psychological coping skills and strategies that young people can utilise to help manage their mood and/or drinking behaviour.

Participants are asked to complete one online module a week for four weeks. Assessment will take place online at baseline, five, 12 and 24 weeks to track their progress.

Doctoral candidate Mark Deady is leading The DEAL Project trial and explained that drinking to reduce or regulate negative emotions was a powerful predictor of heavy and problematic drinking in young people.

But few of these young people received any form of care in traditional services.

"We know from national surveys that one in five people aged 16-25 with depression also meet the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Similarly, 14% of young people with an alcohol use disorder also meet criteria for depression," Mr Deady said.

"Right now, there are few resources available to these young people. We're hoping The DEAL Project invention will help plug that gap.

"The intervention is online so it's easy to access and it requires minimal time commitment from participants."

Young people interested in taking part in The DEAL Project can apply at STATS

One in five young people age 16-25 with depression also have problems with alcohol use.

14% of young people who misuse alcohol meet criteria for depression.

Less than 25% of young Australians with a mental disorder seek treatment.

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