Online Prevention

Depression is a major public health problem. It is one of the leading causes of disability in the world [1], [2].

What can we do?

In many areas of medicine, we accept that prevention is essential to our health and well-being. Imagine how different the world would be today without widespread immunisation programs. We have been much slower to see that prevention programs may also be an important way of protecting our mental health.

Prevention programs show promise

There is evidence that special training programs might actually prevent depression [3], [4]. These programs use cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to increase resilience. (As you can see elsewhere in BluePages, CBT is an effective treatment when delivered face-to-face or in the form of a self-help book).

But how do we deliver them?

The rapid development of information and communications technology, and the growing popularity of Internet-enabled mobile devices, means that more people have access to the Internet than ever before.  It is estimated that more than a third of the world's population are using the Internet, with approximately 78% of households in the developed world having Internet access at home [5].

Delivering prevention programs on the Internet may therefore be an effective way of reaching large numbers of people. In 2001, researchers at the National Institute for Mental Health Research launched moodgym to provide an online depression prevention training program directly to individuals.

What is moodgym?

moodgym is an internet-based therapy program designed to prevent depression in young people. It teaches self-help skills drawn from cognitive behaviour therapy, and consists of five modules, a workbook and relaxation downloads. It includes assessments of anxiety and depression, 'warpy' thinking, life-event stress, parental relationships, and pleasant event scheduling. Although it is intended for young people, people who are older may also find it helpful.

moodgym has been evaluated in numerous studies in different settings and population groups, across the mental health care spectrum (from prevention to treatment). Overall, moodgym has been effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety in the community, in preventing anxiety among high school students in Australia, and in preventing depression in boys in schools (see e-hub Assist for more information).

moodgym has also been included in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP).

Sign up for a moodgym account at


[1] World Health Organisation. Regional estimates for 2000-2011. [Accessed 24th February, 2014].

[2] World Health Organisation. The global burden of disease: 2004 update. [Accessed 24th February, 2014].

[3] Seligman MEP, Schulman P, De Rubeis RJ. The prevention of depression and anxiety. Prevention Treatment, 2, Article8, December 21, 1999.

[4] Merry SN, McDowell HH, Hetrick SE, Bir JJ, Muller N. Psychological and/or educational interventions for the prevention of depression in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004, Issue 2.

[5] International Telecommunication Union. 2006-2013 ICT data for the world. [Accessed 24th February, 2014].