Background: Each year, many young Australians aged between 16 and 25 years experience a mental health disorder, yet only a small proportion access services and even fewer receive timely and evidence-based treatments. Today, with ever-increasing access to the Internet and use of technology, the potential to provide all young people with access (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) to the support they require to improve their mental health and well-being is promising.

Objective: The aim of this study was to use participatory design (PD) as research methodologies with end users (young people aged between 16 and 25 years and youth health professionals) and our research team to develop the Mental Health eClinic (a Web-based mental health clinic) to improve timely access to, and better quality, mental health care for young people across Australia.

Methods: A research and development (R&D) cycle for the codesign and build of the Mental Health eClinic included several iterative PD phases: PD workshops; translation of knowledge and ideas generated during workshops to produce mockups of webpages either as hand-drawn sketches or as wireframes (simple layout of a webpage before visual design and content is added); rapid prototyping; and one-on-one consultations with end users to assess the usability of the alpha build of the Mental Health eClinic.

Results: Four PD workshops were held with 28 end users (young people n=18, youth health professionals n=10) and our research team (n=8). Each PD workshop was followed by a knowledge translation session. At the conclusion of this cycle, the alpha prototype was built, and one round of one-on-one end user consultation sessions was conducted (n=6; all new participants, young people n=4, youth health professionals n=2). The R&D cycle revealed the importance of five key components for the Mental Health eClinic: a home page with a visible triage system for those requiring urgent help; a comprehensive online physical and mental health assessment; a detailed dashboard of results; a booking and videoconferencing system to enable video visits; and the generation of a personalized well-being plan that includes links to evidence-based, and health professional–recommended, apps and etools.

Conclusions: The Mental Health eClinic provides health promotion, triage protocols, screening, assessment, a video visit system, the development of personalized well-being plans, and self-directed mental health support for young people. It presents a technologically advanced and clinically efficient system that can be adapted to suit a variety of settings in which there is an opportunity to connect with young people. This will enable all young people, and especially those currently not able or willing to connect with face-to-face services, to receive best practice clinical services by breaking down traditional barriers to care and making health care more personalized, accessible, affordable, and available.


mental health, community-based participatory research, eHealth

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