LOS ANGELES, Dec. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Prototypes, a Southern California-based non-profit that supports women, children and families confronting abuse, addiction and other behavioral health issues, is preparing to help its clients (patients) battle the 'holiday blues' by deploying new online and mobile depression and anxiety management tools. Known as myStrength.com, the technology was introduced on a pilot basis last summer and now will be used at its residential and outpatient programs in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties serving 12,000 women, children and families.
Prototypes is the first California-based organization to deploy the new technology. It expects the innovative and easily accessible content to play an important role in supporting people who are vulnerable to depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during this year's holiday season and beyond.
Prototypes clients are able to access the new technology at its website, www.prototypes.org., where a link is provided to www.myStrength.com, as well as on their smart telephones. Once connected, they perform a self-analysis to determine their level of anxiety or depression at any given time. Following that, visitors can access a nine-step approach of customized content, self-education and management tools -- all derived from nationally accredited and outcomes-based cognitive therapy practices. Included is a daily 'mood tracker' that allows participants to monitor mood changes while accessing content.
"With the holidays upon us, this is a challenging time for those confronting substance abuse, alcoholism and mental health disorders," said Cassandra Loch, president and CEO of Prototypes. "They may feel isolated, anxious and depressed because family ties and emotional support may have been severed or compromised. Our experience shows that left unchecked or under-managed, these issues can undermine treatment. The myStrength technology allows our clients and staff to monitor symptoms between treatment sessions and address them proactively. We see it as another example of our commitment to offer innovative treatment that improves the chances for successful recovery."
In a whitepaper called "The Online Couch: Mental Health Care on the Web", authors noted that computer-based cognitive therapy programs (CCBT) are being used by a growing number of national health systems. They include the National Health Service of Great Britain as well as government health programs in Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Canada, Egypt and Malta. CCBT is seen as advantageous for addressing cost concerns of therapy and access challenges due to the shortage of mental health care providers.
"This is particularly important for the clients we serve," Loch emphasized. "They face greater psychological challenges, including limited access to behavioral health care, decreased or no social support and often financial constraints. Facing such lifestyle factors, they experience depression at higher levels than the general population and are especially vulnerable during the holiday season. Having the content available online and in mobile applications helps improve access to content and better self-management of symptoms and treatment participation."
"While every client may not have a computer to access our content, nearly all have a smart phone," added Sarah Murphy, vice president of consumer development for myStrength, Inc. "Having content literally at their fingertips is empowering and extends our ability to provide assistance to accompany in-person treatment sessions."
About Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):
Known as the 'common cold of mental illness', depression affects nearly 60 million Americans annually – or one-fourth of the total population. It is the leading cause of employee absenteeism and lack of productivity – more so than diabetes, asthma and arthritis according to the Integrated Benefits Institute. The same report estimated that mental illness and substance abuse annually cost employers $80 billion to $100 billion in indirect costs alone.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that affects a person the same season annually. Some get depressed in late fall and winter, when there is decreased daylight, but feel better in spring and summer. It is most common among people ages 15 to 55 and especially among women.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2012, Prototypes believes in empowering clients to become strong, healthy, productive and independent members of the community. At the time of its inception, Prototypes was the first comprehensive program in Southern California to address the physical, mental and emotional needs of women and children. Now seen as a national model for such offerings, Prototypes provides innovative health, mental health and social services to more than 12,000 women, children and communities affected by substance abuse, mental illness, and domestic violence in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties. For more information on Prototypes, please visit www.prototypes.org or call 213-542-3856.
myStrength™ is a fast growing, online behavioral health company based in Denver. myStrength™ delivers innovative, engaging, evidence-based scalable behavioral health solutions to healthcare providers to foster strong mental health and wellness. For more information about myStrength™, please visit www.myStrength.com.
 The Online Couch: Mental Health Care on the Web, California Healthcare Foundation, June 2012.
 The Full Costs of Depression in the Workforce, Integrated Benefits Institute, May 2009.