Original Research

Virtually caring: a qualitative study of internet-based mental health services for LGBT young adults in rural Australia


Sarah Bowman1 MClinPsych, PhD Candidate *

Brona Nic Giolla Easpaig2 PhD, Lecturer

Rachael Fox3 PhD, Senior Lecturer


1 School of Psychology, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia; and Graduate School of Health, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia

2 School of Psychology, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia; and Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University, Australia

3 School of Psychology, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia

ACCEPTED: 22 November 2019

early abstract:

Introduction: The study explored how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young adults in rural Australian communities experience online mental health services. Online technologies hold potential to overcome health access barriers, but little is known in practice for this community.  

Methods: Interviews were conducted with nine LGBT young adults living in rural areas and six service providers who were responsible for the provision of internet-based mental health services.  The results were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: The analysis of the interviews with LGBT young adults and service providers revealed important insights and discrepancies.  Findings revealed difficulties locating the right care and variation in views about how online services should be delivered. A potentially critical role for parents/guardians to play was found in facilitating access to services.

Conclusion: The needs of LGBT youth in rural areas are complex and are unlikely to be met by an en masse approach to internet-based mental health care.  We recommend that internet based mental health care providers work closely with LGBT and youth communities in rural areas to develop client-centred services that are customised to meet the unique needs of this community.