Head to Health is the Australian Government’s digital mental health gateway, bringing together information, apps, online programs, online forums, and phone services from Australia’s most trusted mental health organisations. The searchable portal was launched in October 2017 by the Minister for Health and developed in conjunction with people with lived experience, health professionals, and mental health service providers. Head to Health was developed to optimise the use of digital mental health services and assist individuals navigate the service landscape by connecting people more easily with information, advice, and free or low-cost digital mental health supports that are most suited to their individual needs.
Head to Health underwent an extensive co-design process involving the Department of Health, people and families with lived experience of mental health issues, mental health organisations, service provides, health professionals, and the Australian public during its development.
Head to Health Features
The Head to Health website can be accessed on a desktop computer or mobile device at any time and is regularly updated. It lists apps, online programs, online forums, phone, chat, and email services and mental health websites for 706 digital mental health services (as at 19 October 2021). This number also includes many information websites. The site includes a range of featured to help people find resources to improve their own wellbeing, get help with something that is bothering them, or help someone they care about.
The search/service finder feature allows users to filter digital services by format, age group, or population group, or type in a search term to find relevant digital resources. The resources are then presented back to the user in 5 categories: apps and programs; online community forums; phone, chat, and email; Head to Health topic pages; and information websites. Head to Health also includes a quick search feature on their home page where users can quickly search common search terms such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
Sam the Chatbot
‘Sam the Chatbot’ is a decision support tool, guiding users through the process to find an appropriate resource. Sam helps guide people who might be unsure what they are looking for or where to start, responding to natural language and providing suggestions and recommending digital resources related to the user’s inputs.
Head to Health provides a range of topic pages: COVID-19 support; living a meaningful life; mental health difficulties; supporting yourself; and supporting someone else. Each topic page includes an overview of the topic, a brief snippet of research or evidence on an action the user can take related to the topic, lived experience quotes and a list of related digital resources.
Digital mental health resources are listed in the format of cards, providing a summary of the resource, the organisation providing the service, hours of operation, whether it is free or low-cost, and a button to link out to the service in a new tab. Users can also choose to save a resource to their favourites, or share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via email.
Service Provider page
Every service provider on the Head to Health website is listed here, organised alphabetically. Users can see how many and the types of resources on the site here and service providers can apply to have their service listed on Head to Health. There is also a service provider information pack available for services interested in being listed on the Head to Health site.
Health Professionals page
The Health Professionals page provides videos, webinars and other reference materials to health professionals on how to use Head to Health and make the most of the available resources. This page includes an overview of digital mental health for practitioners, the types of digital mental health resources, the benefits of digital mental health, a brief look at how they can be used, lived experience quotes and a list of related digital resources.
The ‘I need help now!’ button connects users to digital mental health resources suitable for a crisis. This page includes links to telephone and online counselling helplines for people in distress, state-specific mental health crisis services and the 000 number if anyone is in immediate danger.
Feedback and Development
The Head to Health site gathers feedback from users through periodic surveys and feedback forms which are accessible on every page of the site. This feedback helps inform future enhancements of Head to Health.
How Head to Health can be used in Practice
Head to Health is a great resource for health professionals as individuals and when working with patients or clients. Health practitioners often use digital mental health services to supplement face-to-face treatment. A health professional might refer a client to digital services that involve a therapist when managing waiting lists, on periods of extended leave, or post-discharge, they might prescribe digital services as homework tasks or crisis intervention options between sessions, or they can integrate online tools into face-to-face sessions.
The following fictional case study highlights how a psychologist might use Head to Health in practice:
Patrice is a 49-year-old woman coming to see you for the management of symptoms related to her bipolar affective disorder. Her sessions focus on her history of trauma and the impact of these experiences on her current relationships. Throughout the course of your sessions, Patrice reveals that she has some problems relating to her use of alcohol and she expresses a concern that her drinking is affecting her recovery from her mental health problems. She states that she has not told anyone else about her drinking and feels isolated as a result.
You know that Patrice is computer literate and uses her phone for other tasks such as scheduling her appointments. You gauge Patrice’s acceptability of digital support outside of your sessions and the delivery format that she recognises as useful. She suggests a forum or a way to connect with other people struggling with their drinking might be a good first step for her.
Patrice attends her next session and after working on some drinking self-efficacy tools, you log on to the clinic iPad and show her the Daybreak app. Patrice agrees to download it to her phone in session and completes the sign-up process. She expresses that this might allow her to start to engage in help-seeking before taking steps to reach out to those close to her.