Deakin – Australian Unity partnership develops app for carers

Improving Health and Wellbeing

A world-first app developed by Deakin researchers in partnership with Australian Unity will help young carers manage their stress.

An estimated 200,000+ Australians aged between 18 and 25 care for family and friends living with a physical or mental condition.

Unfortunately, the responsibilities involved can take a toll on carers’ own mental health. In particular, young adult carers can experience high levels of stress as a result of long-term, and often “hidden,” caregiving.

However, most Australian research on young carers focused on the experiences of younger carers under the age of 18, and so not much was known about the impact of caregiving on young adults, according to Dr Linda Hartley-Clark, a Research Fellow and designer of eMental Health intervention with Deakin University’s Australian Centre on Quality of Life (ACQOL).

“What we do know is that young adult caregivers typically understand that the support they give is very important, and they are happy to give it, but that doesn’t stop them from often feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. Given young adults are faced with making important life choices that will largely dictate their future, it’s important that we provide these carers with the skills to not just get by, but to get on and thrive in life.”
Linda Hartley-Clarke
Linda Hartley-Clarke Research Fellow ACQOL
Dr Hartley-Clark and a team of senior researchers including Associate Professor Matthew Fuller-Tyszkiewicz and Professor Ben Richardson, in partnership with leading mutual organisation Australian Unity, have developed a world-first smartphone app to help young adult carers manage their stress.

The Stress-Less mobile app allows carers to self-report stress levels each day before helping them with practical activities to reduce stress and improve their wellbeing.

“Just as a trained therapist relies on various treatment approaches to suit a client’s needs, the Stress-Less app is based on various therapeutic approaches, which are successful at treating negative mood states and for building resilience,” Dr Hartley-Clark said.

“The app will allow us to help young people using proven methods, but in a way that is simple, accessible and relevant to this age group.”

Dr Hartley-Clark said research in e-mental health showed that the ability to access mental health treatment from a computer or phone can significantly improve a person’s engagement with the treatment.

The research team is now recruiting young carers aged 18 to 25 to take part in a five-week trial.

“We hope the findings of the trial study will increase understanding of the psychological risks and benefits associated with the role of informal caring in emerging adulthood, and provide an evidence-based framework for further development of e-mental health interventions for this subgroup of young adults,” Dr Hartley-Clark said.

The team will soon begin work on a version of the Stress Less application for over 25s. Carers aged 18 and over can find out more about the program, register their interest, or sign up to take part by emailing Dr Hartley-Clark at stressless.app@deakin.edu.au or by visiting goo.gl/08tAKU

Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development

The Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development (SEED) aims to promote a secure start to emotional life in all children and young people. We achieve this through original research on the developmental origins of mental health and disorder.