Research projects

MoodSwings: An online intervention for bipolar affective disorder

Principal Researchers

Professor Michael Berka, Dr Seetal Dodda, Lesley Berka, Sue Laudera, Professor David Castleb, Monica Gilbertc, Carolynne Holdsworthc, Dr Jamie Chamberlainc, Professor Leon Pittermand, Dr Britt Kleind, Dr David Austind, Dr Andrea Chestere, Dr Greg Murrayf

Institution

aDepartment of Clinical and Biomedical Sciences, The University of Melbourne

bSt Vincent’s Hospital, The University of Melbourne

cCollaborative Therapy Unit, Mental Health Research Institute

dDepartment of General Practice, Monash University

eDivision of Psychology, RMIT University

fFaculty Life and Social Sciences, Swinburne University

Funding

$50,000

Award Type

beyondblue Victorian Centre of Excellence

Project completion year

2007

Project brief

This project had two major objectives:

  • to develop an online intervention for bipolar disorder
  • to demonstrate that group-based intervention, on which the online program is based, is effective in treating bipolar disorder.

MoodSwings is an online intervention for bipolar disorder (www.moodswings.net.au) based on the Moodswings and Bipolar Therapy Group Project (MAPS).  A series of sequential modules covers a range of psychological strategies for managing bipolar disorder in conjunction with medication. 

The modules include understanding bipolar disorder; stress and triggers of illness; medication management; managing and monitoring early symptoms of depression, mania and hypomania; and developing plans to manage relapse.  The sequence can be tailored to the type of bipolar illness, individualising the material.  The site contains elements designed for developing a personal illness profile, key tools and a monitoring section to keep track of mood changes and triggers of illness.  The personal profiles and monitoring sections are easily reviewed and updated.  Automated reminder emails encourage participants to return to the site after a period of absence. 

MoodSwings also contains a moderated discussion board for sharing experiences in a supportive environment.  Site tours demonstrate key aspects of the site and how to navigate and make best use of it.  Print buttons allow material to be printed and taken to service providers; help buttons allow email contact with the administrator.

To create the website, it was necessary to:

  • design the structure and supporting software
  • structure the website to allow continual iterative development
  • train the moderator in web design software (WebGui)
  • construct the site to allow evaluation of the intervention
  • complete the content, including the interactive elements. 

The website is based on the MAPS program, a pre-existing face-to-face group intervention based on consumer, carer and service provider focus groups and evidence from the literature.  It involves 12, 90-minute group sessions, held weekly, followed by monthly booster sessions for three months.

Key findings

This project has developed an online intervention for bipolar disorder called MoodSwings www.moodswings.net.au. Based on an effective face-to-face group program, key techniques and strategies have been applied to an online environment. MoodSwings provides a series of sequential modules covering a range of psychological strategies to manage bipolar disorder in conjunction with medication. The sequence of these modules can be tailored to the type of bipolar illness, so the material is highly relevant to the individual. MoodSwings comprises a number of modules including understanding bipolar disorder, stress and triggers of illness, medication management, managing and monitoring prodromes of depression, mania and hypomania and developing plans to manage relapse. MoodSwings also contains a moderated discussion board so participants can share their experiences in a supportive environment.

Implications for policy, practice and further research

Elements of the software can be activated or hidden, making it possible to create two arms of the MoodSwings site: an active intervention and an information-only arm.  This key design element enables online evaluation of the project. The website can also keep track of how long participants spend on the site and what areas of the site they use.  Using this is recommended to determine any dose effects of the site.  Questionnaire data can be collected and downloaded directly to a statistical data package, saving time on data entry and minimising errors for future research projects.

Links

www.moodswings.net.au

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