Improving life for all Australians through mental health research, education and awareness

Improving the mental health of young Australians with chronic illness

Dr Amy Finlay-Jones

A pilot randomised controlled trial of online self-compassion training

Young people with a chronic health condition experience higher rates of mental illness and lower wellbeing than their peers. Dr Amy Finlay-Jones has developed an online program called Uplift to increase self-compassion in young people living with chronic medical conditions.

The group of young people that took part in the study reported more than 50 unique chronic conditions. The most common chronic conditions included chronic pain, type 1 diabetes, allergies, asthma, and chronic fatigue syndrome. More than 70 per cent had moderate to severe levels of psychological distress (symptoms of depression and/or anxiety). Nearly half of the study participants reported a diagnosed mental health condition.

In a randomised control trial, Dr Finlay-Jones compared mental health outcomes for two groups: one who completed the online program, and the group who were on a waitlist to receive the program. Results showed the group who completed the program had improvements in wellbeing, self-compassion, and distress that were maintained for at least three months after starting the program.

s the program was online it was also self-paced, meaning that young people could use it when and where it suited them. This is important for young people with chronic conditions, who often experience unpredictable symptoms that can limit their capacity to engage with face-to-face services.

The inclusion of young people with a broad range of chronic conditions also reminded the participants that other people had gone through similar experiences to them so that they felt less isolated.