BMC Psychiatry. 2022 Jul 28;22(1):511. doi: 10.1186/s12888-022-04035-6.
BACKGROUND: Due to budget restrictions in mental health care, non-professional caregivers are increasingly burdened with the emotional and practical care for their depressed relatives. However, informal family caregiving is mostly a stressful role with negative consequences on the physical and mental health of the caretakers to the extent that they have an elevated risk of experiencing psychiatric disorders themselves. While psychoeducation for relatives of depressed individuals showed positive results both in terms of the caretakers’ strain and the depressive symptoms of the affected person, there are major barriers to participate in presence in those programs. Digital programs might be a viable alternative. We found no empirically evaluated digital program available for informal caregivers of depressed patients.
METHODS: An online program for relatives of depressed individuals has been developed including four interactive modules on 1) psychoeducation, 2) how to strengthen the relationship with the depressed person, 3) how to deal with the depressive symptoms of the patient, and 4) find the right balance between caring for the depressed person and self-care. We investigate if this self-help program is more effective when used with individualized versus automated e-mail support, and if both supported conditions are more effective than treatment-as-usual (TAU in form of written information material) in terms of the risk of mental diseases in caregivers. The primary outcome is the reduction of the caregiver’s nonspecific mental distress as measured by the change of the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale score from baseline to four weeks after randomization. Caregivers (n = 500:500:250) will be randomized to one of the three conditions.
DISCUSSION: Psychological support for caregivers of individuals with mental disorders such as depression should be offered as part of integrated services. There is a huge potential to develop and implement interactive online approaches to support informal caregivers of patients with depression to function in their multiple roles and to help them to remain healthy.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: DRKS, DRKS00025241 . Registered 5 Mai 2021.