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Clicking your blues away?

Innovative Park Center program starts therapy online

There have been seasons of my life when I’ve probably been depressed.

I say “probably” because I never officially looked into it, and it turns out I’m not alone.

About 60 million Americans experience some form of depression or anxiety each year, and only 36 percent receive any treatment, according to research by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

But luckily, there’s a new program aimed at curbing those statistics.

“Beating the Blues” is an interactive, online program designed to break down barriers to seeking help for mental health issues. It allows users to get treatment from the comfort and convenience of their homes, and Park Center, a local mental health provider, is making it available to everyone who can make a one-time payment of $85 and has access to a computer.

“Our hope is that this will be an avenue to reach more people who haven’t traditionally received services because of stigma, or cost, or whatever reason,” said Paul Wilson, Park Center’s CEO. “People are doing so much online, and we thought this was a way we could reach people more effectively.”

“Beating the Blues” is an eight-session, 50-minutes-a-week course based on a cognitive behavioral therapy approach that examines the relationships among a client’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

The course is tailored to individuals, so different users get different results, and it empowers them to take an active role in their recovery by changing their thoughts and actions.

The program originated in the United Kingdom, and it’s the first of its kind in northeast Indiana.

After hearing about it at a national conference about a year ago, Park Center officials began working to make it available at beatingthebluesonline.org, so anyone can access it regardless of whether they are a Park Center client.

About 50 people have used it since the site launched, and Park Center hopes to grow that number to more than 500 in the next year.

Richard Hite, vice president of adult community services at Park Center, said eventually it hopes to have brochures about the program at primary-care doctors’ offices, churches and other places where people seek help for depression and anxiety issues.

So far, 70 percent of users nationwide have reported progress with the program, and the website promises to deliver clinical outcomes equal to face-to-face treatment.

But even though it’s cheaper and more accessible than traditional therapy, it’s not meant to replace the need for a personal therapist, according to Todd Campbell, the program’s facilitator at Park Center.

Actually, “Beating the Blues” might help users realize they need to see a therapist. It’s meant to function as a comfortable first step into the recovery process.

“It’s a good entry point into more mental health services or maybe not,” Campbell said. “Maybe this program is all a person needs for a little boost.”

As the program’s facilitator, Campbell can’t read the responses of those participating, but he’s available to help them through the process if they have trouble or want additional help. He’s also responsible for encouraging participants to keep up with the program and complete it in the recommended time frame for maximum effect.

“It’s almost a coach kind of role,” Campbell said.

One in five people in the U.S. struggles with mild or moderate depression every year, and the dangerous thing about these issues is that they creep into our lives so slowly we often overlook their presence until we can’t easily escape.

But if more people know about programs like this, we might see the statistics change. Please help spread the word, and if you think you “probably” have depression, maybe it’s time to find out.

Kara Hackett is social media writer for The Journal Gazette. To see more of her work throughout the week and participate in the conversation, go to www.journalgazette.net/coffeebreak, where this column first appeared.

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