A committee of mental health professionals, social media experts and carers has been appointed to oversee rollout of new services.

Access to online mental health services is a step closer after the federal government appointed a committee to oversee their rollout.

The committee comprises a mix of mental health professionals, social media experts and consumer and carer representatives.

It will develop Australia’s first national e-mental health strategy and advise on the implementation of a new mental health online portal and virtual clinic.

Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler said that online mental health services provided an alternative form of support or care for people who didn’t want to access traditional face-to-face services.

“Online services have the potential to overcome geographical, attitudinal and financial barriers which we know that young Australians or people living in remote or regional areas often face,” he said in a statement.

“For example, the new virtual clinic has the potential to treat thousands of Australians living with mild to moderately severe depression and anxiety disorders which form the bulk of mental illness.”

Social media expert Rachel de Sain will join mental health professionals as a technical advisor on the expert committee to provide advice on how to maximise e-mental health and harness the opportunities presented by emerging technologies, including the National Broadband Network.

Other committee members include Professor Helen Christensen, director of the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University; Professor Gavin Andrews, director of the University of New South Wales School of Psychiatry at St Vincent’s Hospital; and, Associate Professor Judy Proudfoot, e-health director of the Black Dog Institute.

The government has committed $48 million over the next five years for telephone counselling, self-help and web-based support services to help boost mental health prevention and early intervention.

With AAP

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