Innovative mental health program sends mood-elevating messages to boost conventional treatment.

By Lesley Young

“There are only two days in the week we should not worry about: yesterday and tomorrow. That leaves today. Live for today.”

More than 6,000 Albertans rely daily on expertly crafted text messages like this to alleviate mental health issues thanks to a study that has evolved into an effective intervention program developed by University of Alberta psychiatrist Vincent Agyapong and delivered by Alberta Health Services.

Text4Mood is not a replacement for conventional treatments such as counselling services, said Agyapong, but a supplementary tool meant to help fill the gap when patients face long wait-lists.

“We know how important medical interventions are to impact mental illness prognosis. The faster you get help, the faster you recover and the less expensive treatment is for health services,” said Agyapong.

More than half of the 20 per cent of Albertans with mental illness or addiction report unmet needs for services, according to the recent provincial Gap Analysis of Public Mental Health and Addictions Programs.

“Counselling services are human intensive. We don’t have a sufficient number of counsellors able to meet the demands of patients in Alberta,” explained Agyapong. “Using technology to provide some form of counselling and support by text message can reach a large number of people with minimal costs and virtually no human resources at all.”

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