Acfas 2012 report #1: Help for traumatic stress is a mouse-click away

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

During the 80th Association francophone pour le savoir (Acfas) Congres, held last week at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal, Christophe Herbert, a PhD candidate in McGill’s Department of Psychiatry and research coordinator of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, reflected on the first three years of the website info-trauma. The site offers resources for people living with the effects of having experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.

Since one in two Quebecers turn to the Web for information about health, and since 42% of the information they will find is wrong, creating such a website was an important mission for public health. Made for victims, people close to victims, and mental health professionals, the bilingual website has offered reliable information for three years now, and is certified by the Code of Conduct HON.
The website aims to offer concise information to a general audience. A test gives visitors the possibility to check whether they have post-traumatic stress, and, if so, to estimate its intensity. Nearly 3,000 people have completed the test since its creation in 2009. The website also offers a directory of locations, in 35 countries, where people can get psychological or legal help. Herbert noted that several new visitors to the Douglas centre, which offers free consultation, had previously been on the website.

Building awareness of the website was a difficult task. Many visits followed its media coverage of its launch in April 2009, but the average amount of visitors quickly dropped. The «flash» format used for the website did not help as it was not recognized by the search engine Google, and was therefore not listed among search results. «Our website was too advanced, technologically speaking, compared to most computers», points out Christophe Herbert. The addition of an HTML version helped improve the website’s visibility.

Statistics show that over three years, 23,000 people visited the website, most of them in French. The site’s managers are now using those statistics, and user feedback, to further develop it. The next step will probably be the creation of Apple and Androïd apps.

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