As vaccine-filled planes hit Australian soil, most of the country — including myself — rejoiced and indulged in a deep, long-overdue, sigh of relief. We watched on as our nation’s COVID-19 recovery effort began before our eyes. Every politician’s Instagram post of a needle to the arm reconfirmed that this devastating chapter of the world’s history was beginning to end.
But just as we took that breath, a daunting statistic re-emerged and cascaded across the mainstream media landscape in the context of COVID-19.
“For every 1% increase in unemployment, there is a 1% increase in suicide rates.”- (The Lancet)1
This statistic, plainly stated in black and white, quashed any of my wishful assumptions that our nation, despite being leaders in the response against the pandemic, would come out of this epoch unscathed and unburdened by the long-lasting consequences. While concerns surrounding the physical effects of the virus have mostly subsided, we are seeing a spike in joblessness and the universal experience of pandemic-anxiety take a toll on the mental health of citizens worldwide. Experts are predicting a “second epidemic” 2 as the long term social effects of COVID-19 take hold.
While we couldn’t anticipate the immense impacts the pandemic would have across the globe, Australians are now at the very forefront of addressing the mental and emotional issues, anticipated to peak at the denouement of the pandemic, with the help of technology.
Cue Posimente — an intuitive platform, designed to give students and their support networks a stronger gauge on their individual mental health and wellness.
This new technology has been created with a focus on early intervention, in hopes of rapidly scaling up the support available to students, their teachers and families.
So, why is this so important now? COVID-19 has propelled the already pertinent need for an improved understanding and management of mental wellbeing. The effects of the lockdown have only exacerbated issues surrounding financial distress, employment, housing security, personal relationships and social connections, across the nation.
Headspace, a youth mental health service, experienced a 50% rise in referrals for young people experiencing a mental ill-health crisis.3 Statistics like this one come as no surprise; the looming, perpetual concern of becoming ill from the virus, or infecting somebody else, was (and still is) a universal experience that doesn’t discriminate.
Not to mention the unforgiving trickle down effects of joblessness and financial insecurity. The need for innovative ways to tackle emerging mental health problems has never been more pertinent. Posimente has been introduced to protect some of our most valuable members of society — students.
Until now — aside from the occasional Oprah meditation podcast — technology has rarely been associated with bettering mental health. Rather, phones, laptops and all things social media are infamously synonymous with anti-social behaviour (at least by those who aren’t Millennials or Gen-Z).
However, Posimente has been designed as an intuitive platform to help students better understand their mental wellbeing. Posimente enables “educational communities” (so, schools and parents) to “easily identify, track, manage and garner insights into wellbeing within the student, teacher and family dynamic.” Anyone within this relationship trio is able to log any potential concerns — from seemingly harmless influences like sleep, physical health and friendships, through to more severe issues like bullying, mental ill-health and abuse.
Dan Godden, former teacher and Posimente representative says that: “Posimente was developed in collaboration with mental health professionals... to create a platform that acknowledges unique and complex mental health and wellbeing challenges. This platform will enable families, teachers and schools to contribute and seek support. Essentially it gives everyone a voice and tries to ensure that voice is heard.”
The platform offers an innovative, centralised and holistic approach to one of the greatest challenges in our gen-eration. This technology is a far cry from the tired, and predominantly ineffective presentations about mental health during school assemblies, that most of us were well accustomed to. Instead of being told to ‘just breathe’ or ‘let it go,’ schools and parents are being proactive with the mental health of students. It encourages students to seek help, and seek help early. It isn’t just a way to monitor a student’s mental health progress — it is symbolic of the collective responsibilities and genuine care that families and schools have for their students.
Director of Counselling and Family Therapy at Tyndale Christian School, Jan Lonsdale, says:
“This new technology enables us to scale up our support, identify emerging issues and quickly get a handle on any concerning patterns.
"We know that early intervention is crucial for successful support and management. With most educational communities still utilising paper-based, or ad hoc manual systems, adopting a more efficient and centralised approach allows data to be analysed, trends identified and provides a more proactive method
to support best practice. For instance, if there are multiple reports of bullying in a particular year, a school can quickly intervene to stamp out this behavioural concern. Alternatively, there may be a pattern identified of student or teaching faculty stress.”
The platform, newly available for Australian schools, was piloted in 10 locations last year, across the country. Institutions included primary, secondary and tertiary campuses, including TAFE. A myriad of resources have been allocated to the platform’s development, such as the employment of industry professionals and a vast collection of research.
It sounds almost too good to be true. So, will it work? Or does this have the potential to develop into a ‘Big Brother’ style approach towards mental ill-health detection? Personally, the concept still feels foreign to me, even as a Millennial, so deeply entrenched in technological platforms. But, perhaps that is the key; younger students are already accustomed to using online platforms. They feel comfortable, and even confident using new technology. Maybe Posimente will offer familiarity in addressing mental health concerns — a topic that can be often strange and unapproachable.
The real challenge that lies ahead for schools and parents is what to do once mental health complications have been detected, and if there are enough resources to adequately address their mental health concerns. Posimente appears to have nailed the method of mental ill-health detection in students. But beyond that, most schools are still ill-equipped with the standard ways to address mental ill-health concerns.
If subsidised counselling services are still under-resourced and unemployment is becoming an even greater threat to mental wellbeing, students may well still face problems with such strains on their mental health support networks.
Posimente is clearly a step in the right direction in the ever complex journey of understanding how to combat mental ill-health. But it must be matched with unwavering support in the form of government funding for mental health services, and towards research. If not, we risk the next global crisis being even greater than the last.
Posimente is available for educational communities from primary to tertiary, supporting every level of care, from low to high risk.
For more information, visit https://posimente.com.au/
The Lancet, Covid-19, Unemployment, and Suicide
CSI, Covid and Mental Health
World Socialist Website, Australian Study Reveals Rise in Mental Health Problems during COVID-19 Pandemic