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Helping vision impaired people beat the blues

image-tools (62)Researchers at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) are developing a new integrated model of care that aims to significantly reduce depressive symptoms and improve the quality of life for people with vision impairment.

Depression is a common problem among people with vision impairment. However, few clients are currently accessing psychological support services or using them effectively, according to the Lead Investigator Dr Gwyneth Rees, from the Health Services and Ocular Epidemiology Research Unit at CERA.

The new model will be available to low vision clients recruited from Vision Australia centres across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory.

Twenty rehabilitation staff from Vision Australia are currently being trained to deliver problem-solving techniques to adult clients who screen positive for depressive symptoms.  Problem-solving therapy is an evidence-based treatment for depression.

“This project aims to assess a new and accessible service for clients, placing Australia at the forefront of low vision care,” said Dr Rees. “It will also provide an innovative service delivery model suitable for other health care areas, such as diabetes, heart diseases and oncology.”

A recent economic analysis in Australia found the excess costs of depression to be $1.93 billion per annum. Depression has also found to increase morbidity and mortality in older adults and can increase health care costs by as much as 100 percent.

Dr Rees said part of the problem is that psychological services are delivered separately from physical health in Australia. “This project will integrate problem-solving therapy into low vision rehabilitation services,” she said.

“Patients will be taught problem-solving skills in order to enhance their ability to cope with the challenges they face and thereby preserve independence, enhance feelings of control and acceptance, and reduce or prevent the development of depressive symptoms. “

This project is supported under Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects funding scheme. Vision Australia and beyondblue: the national depression and anxiety initiative are partner organisations in this project. Gwyneth Rees is a NHMRC Translating Research Into Practice Fellow 2012 – 2014.