JMIR Publications

JMIR Mental Health

Internet interventions, technologies and digital innovations for mental health and behaviour change


Journal Description

JMIR Mental Health (JMH, ISSN 2368-7959) is a new spin-off journal of JMIR, the leading eHealth journal (Impact Factor 2015: 4.532). 

JMIR Mental Health focusses on digital health and Internet interventions, technologies and electronic innovations (software and hardware) for mental health, addictions, online counselling and behaviour change. This includes formative evaluation and system descriptions, theoretical papers, review papers, viewpoint/vision papers, and rigorous evaluations.

JMIR Mental Health publishes even faster and has a broader scope with including papers which are more technical or more formative/developmental than what would be published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research

JMIR Mental Health features a rapid and thorough peer-review process, professional copyediting, professional production of PDF, XHTML, and XML proofs.

JMIR Mental Health adheres to the same quality standards as JMIR and all articles published here are also cross-listed in the Table of Contents of JMIR, the worlds' leading medical journal in health sciences / health services research and health informatics.

Editorial Board members are currently being recruited, please contact us if you are interested ( at


Recent Articles:

  • Screenshot of Professor Gooley and the Flame of Mind: sample learning goals and objectives.

    Evaluation of a Digital Game-Based Learning Program for Enhancing Youth Mental Health: A Structural Equation Modeling of the Program Effectiveness


    Background: Digital game-based learning (DGBL) makes use of the entertaining power of digital games for educational purposes. Effectiveness assessment of DGBL programs has been underexplored and no attempt has been made to simultaneously model both important components of DGBL: learning attainment (ie, educational purposes of DGBL) and engagement of users (ie, entertaining power of DGBL) in evaluating program effectiveness. Objective: This study aimed to describe and evaluate an Internet-based DGBL program, Professor Gooley and the Flame of Mind, which promotes mental health to adolescents in a positive youth development approach. In particular, we investigated whether user engagement in the DGBL program could enhance their attainment on each of the learning constructs per DGBL module and subsequently enhance their mental health as measured by psychological well-being. Methods: Users were assessed on their attainment on each learning construct, psychological well-being, and engagement in each of the modules. One structural equation model was constructed for each DGBL module to model the effect of users' engagement and attainment on the learning construct on their psychological well-being. Results: Of the 498 secondary school students that registered and participated from the first module of the DGBL program, 192 completed all 8 modules of the program. Results from structural equation modeling suggested that a higher extent of engagement in the program activities facilitated users’ attainment on the learning constructs on most of the modules and in turn enhanced their psychological well-being after controlling for users’ initial psychological well-being and initial attainment on the constructs. Conclusions: This study provided evidence that Internet intervention for mental health, implemented with the technologies and digital innovations of DGBL, could enhance youth mental health. Structural equation modeling is a promising approach in evaluating the effectiveness of DGBL programs.

  • PAADD user. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Web-Based Intervention to Reduce Substance Abuse and Depressive Symptoms in Mexico: Development and Usability Test


    Background: The development of Web-based interventions for substance abuse in Latin America is a new field of interest with great potential for expansion to other Spanish-speaking countries. Objective: This paper describes a project aimed to develop and evaluate the usability of the Web-based Help Program for Drug Abuse and Depression (Programa de Ayuda para Abuso de Drogas y Depresión, PAADD, in Spanish) and also to construct a systematic frame of reference for the development of future Web-based programs. Methods: The PAADD aims to reduce substance use and depressive symptoms with cognitive behavioral techniques translated into Web applications, aided by the participation of a counselor to provide support and guidance. This Web-based intervention includes 4 steps: (1) My Starting Point, (2) Where Do I Want to Be? (3) Strategies for Change, and (4) Maintaining Change. The development of the program was an interactive multistage process. The first stage defined the core structure and contents, which were validated in stage 2 by a group of 8 experts in addiction treatment. Programming of the applications took place in stage 3, taking into account 3 types of end users: administrators, counselors, and substance users. Stage 4 consisted of functionality testing. In stage 5, a total of 9 health professionals and 20 drug users currently in treatment voluntarily interacted with the program in a usability test, providing feedback about adjustments needed to improve users’ experience. Results: The main finding of stage 2 was the consensus of the health professionals about the cognitive behavioral strategies and techniques included in PAADD being appropriate for changing substance use behaviors. In stage 5, the health professionals found the functionalities easy to learn; their suggestions were related to the page layout, inclusion of confirmation messages at the end of activities, avoiding “read more” links, and providing feedback about every activity. On the other hand, the users said the information presented within the modules was easy to follow and suggested more dynamic features with concrete instructions and feedback. Conclusions: The resulting Web-based program may have advantages over traditional face-to-face therapies owing to its low cost, wide accessibility, anonymity, and independence of time and distance factors. The detailed description of the process of designing a Web-based program is an important contribution to others interested in this field. The potential benefits must be verified in specific studies. Trial Registration: International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN): 25429892; (Archived by WebCite at

  • World map illustrating the original cultural context of the included interventions and the cultures into which they were adapted. Produced and copyright owned by M. Harper Shehadeh 2016.

    Cultural Adaptation of Minimally Guided Interventions for Common Mental Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis


    Background: Cultural adaptation of mental health care interventions is key, particularly when there is little or no therapist interaction. There is little published information on the methods of adaptation of bibliotherapy and e-mental health interventions. Objective: To systematically search for evidence of the effectiveness of minimally guided interventions for the treatment of common mental disorders among culturally diverse people with common mental disorders; to analyze the extent and effects of cultural adaptation of minimally guided interventions for the treatment of common mental disorders. Methods: We searched Embase, PubMed, the Cochrane Library, and PsycINFO for randomized controlled trials that tested the efficacy of minimally guided or self-help interventions for depression or anxiety among culturally diverse populations. We calculated pooled standardized mean differences using a random-effects model. In addition, we administered a questionnaire to the authors of primary studies to assess the cultural adaptation methods used in the included primary studies. We entered this information into a meta-regression to investigate effects of the extent of adaptation on intervention efficacy. Results: We included eight randomized controlled trials (RCTs) out of the 4911 potentially eligible records identified by the search: four on e-mental health and four on bibliotherapy. The extent of cultural adaptation varied across the studies, with language translation and use of metaphors being the most frequently applied elements of adaptation. The pooled standardized mean difference for primary outcome measures of depression and anxiety was -0.81 (95% CI -0.10 to -0.62). Higher cultural adaptation scores were significantly associated with greater effect sizes (P=.04). Conclusions: Our results support the results of previous systematic reviews on the cultural adaptation of face-to-face interventions: the extent of cultural adaptation has an effect on intervention efficacy. More research is warranted to explore how cultural adaptation may contribute to improve the acceptability and effectiveness of minimally guided psychological interventions for common mental disorders.

  • Friends with Mobile Phones.
Image source: 
Copyright: Garry Knight. 
License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

    Can We Foster a Culture of Peer Support and Promote Mental Health in Adolescence Using a Web-Based App? A Control Group Study


    Background: Adolescence with its many transitions is a vulnerable period for the development of mental illnesses. Establishing effective mental health promotion programs for this age group is a challenge crucial to societal health. Programs must account for the specific developmental tasks that adolescents face. Considering peer influence and fostering adolescent autonomy strivings is essential. Participation in a program should be compelling to young people, and their affinity to new technologies offers unprecedented opportunities in this respect. Objective: The Companion App was developed as a Web-based app giving adolescents access to a peer mentoring system and interactive, health-relevant content to foster a positive peer culture among adolescents and thereby strengthen social support and reduce stress. Methods: In a control group study design, a group of employed (n=546) and unemployed (n=73) adolescents had access to the Companion App during a 10-month period. The intervention was evaluated using a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches. Linear mixed effects models were used to analyze changes in chronic stress levels and perception of social support. Monthly feedback on the app and qualitative interviews at the end of the study allowed for an in-depth exploration of the adolescents’ perception of the intervention. Results: Adolescents in the intervention group did not use the Companion App consistently. The intervention had no significant effect on chronic stress levels or the perception of social support. Adolescents reported endorsing the concept of the app and the implementation of a peer mentoring system in particular. However, technical difficulties and insufficiently obvious benefits of using the app impeded more frequent usage. Conclusions: The Companion Project implemented a theory-driven and innovative approach to mental health promotion in adolescence, taking into account the specifics of this developmental phase. Particularities of the implementation context, technical aspects of the app, and insufficient incentives may have played considerable roles concerning the difficulties of the Companion Project to establish commitment. However, adopting peer mentoring as a strategy and using an app still seems to us a promising approach in mental health promotion in adolescents. Future projects should be careful to invest enough resources into the technical development of an app and consider a large use of incentives to establish commitment. When targeting risk groups, such as unemployed adolescents, it may be expedient to use more structured approaches including face-to-face support.

  • E-Mental Health Innovations. Image sourced by authors and copyright owned and permission granted by Menzies School of Health Research.

    E-Mental Health Innovations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: A Qualitative Study of Implementation Needs in Health Services


    Background: Electronic mental health (e-mental health) interventions offer effective, easily accessible, and cost effective treatment and support for mental illness and well-being concerns. However, e-mental health approaches have not been well utilized by health services to date and little is known about their implementation in practice, particularly in diverse contexts and communities. Objective: This study aims to understand stakeholder perspectives on the requirements for implementing e-mental health approaches in regional and remote health services for Indigenous Australians. Methods: Qualitative interviews were conducted with 32 managers, directors, chief executive officers (CEOs), and senior practitioners of mental health, well-being, alcohol and other drug and chronic disease services. Results: The implementation of e-mental health approaches in this context is likely to be influenced by characteristics related to the adopter (practitioner skill and knowledge, client characteristics, communication barriers), the innovation (engaging and supportive approach, culturally appropriate design, evidence base, data capture, professional development opportunities), and organizational systems (innovation-systems fit, implementation planning, investment). Conclusions: There is potential for e-mental health approaches to address mental illness and poor social and emotional well-being amongst Indigenous people and to advance their quality of care. Health service stakeholders reported that e-mental health interventions are likely to be most effective when used to support or extend existing health services, including elements of client-driven and practitioner-supported use. Potential solutions to obstacles for integration of e-mental health approaches into practice were proposed including practitioner training, appropriate tool design using a consultative approach, internal organizational directives and support structures, adaptations to existing systems and policies, implementation planning and organizational and government investment.

  • eggs-expression-happy-sad. Image source: License: CC0 Public Domain.

    Technology-Based Early Warning Systems for Bipolar Disorder: A Conceptual Framework


    Recognition and timely action around “warning signs” of illness exacerbation is central to the self-management of bipolar disorder. Due to its heterogeneity and fluctuating course, passive and active mobile technologies have been increasingly evaluated as adjunctive or standalone tools to predict and prevent risk of worsening of course in bipolar disorder. As predictive analytics approaches to big data from mobile health (mHealth) applications and ancillary sensors advance, it is likely that early warning systems will increasingly become available to patients. Such systems could reduce the amount of time spent experiencing symptoms and diminish the immense disability experienced by people with bipolar disorder. However, in addition to the challenges in validating such systems, we argue that early warning systems may not be without harms. Probabilistic warnings may be delivered to individuals who may not be able to interpret the warning, have limited information about what behaviors to change, or are unprepared to or cannot feasibly act due to time or logistic constraints. We propose five essential elements for early warning systems and provide a conceptual framework for designing, incorporating stakeholder input, and validating early warning systems for bipolar disorder with a focus on pragmatic considerations.

  • eheadspace. Image sourced and copyright held by authors.

    Who Are the Young People Choosing Web-based Mental Health Support? Findings From the Implementation of Australia's National Web-based Youth Mental Health...


    Background: The adolescent and early adult years are periods of peak prevalence and incidence for most mental disorders. Despite the rapid expansion of Web-based mental health care, and increasing evidence of its effectiveness, there is little research investigating the characteristics of young people who access Web-based mental health care. headspace, Australia’s national youth mental health foundation, is ideally placed to explore differences between young people who seek Web-based mental health care and in-person mental health care as it offers both service modes for young people, and collects corresponding data from each service type. Objective: The objective of this study was to provide a comprehensive profile of young people seeking Web-based mental health care through eheadspace (the headspace Web-based counseling platform), and to compare this with the profile of those accessing help in-person through a headspace center. Methods: Demographic and clinical presentation data were collected from all eheadspace clients aged 12 to 25 years (the headspace target age range) who received their first counseling session between November 1, 2014 and April 30, 2015 via online chat or email (n=3414). These Web-based clients were compared with all headspace clients aged 12 to 25 who received their first center-based counseling service between October 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015 (n=20,015). Results: More eheadspace than headspace center clients were female (78.1% compared with 59.1%), and they tended to be older. A higher percentage of eheadspace clients presented with high or very high levels of psychological distress (86.6% compared with 73.2%), but they were at an earlier stage of illness on other indicators of clinical presentation compared with center clients. Conclusions: The findings of this study suggest that eheadspace is reaching a unique client group who may not otherwise seek help or who might wait longer before seeking help if in-person mental health support was their only option. Web-based support can lead young people to seek help at an earlier stage of illness and appears to be an important component in a stepped continuum of mental health care.

  • Gamification. Author image of a Web-based gamified health behaviour intervention for public sector staff in wales. Sourced and copyright held by authors.

    Gamification and Adherence to Web-Based Mental Health Interventions: A Systematic Review


    Background: Adherence to effective Web-based interventions for common mental disorders (CMDs) and well-being remains a critical issue, with clear potential to increase effectiveness. Continued identification and examination of “active” technological components within Web-based interventions has been called for. Gamification is the use of game design elements and features in nongame contexts. Health and lifestyle interventions have implemented a variety of game features in their design in an effort to encourage engagement and increase program adherence. The potential influence of gamification on program adherence has not been examined in the context of Web-based interventions designed to manage CMDs and well-being. Objective: This study seeks to review the literature to examine whether gaming features predict or influence reported rates of program adherence in Web-based interventions designed to manage CMDs and well-being. Methods: A systematic review was conducted of peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) designed to manage CMDs or well-being and incorporated gamification features. Seven electronic databases were searched. Results: A total of 61 RCTs met the inclusion criteria and 47 different intervention programs were identified. The majority were designed to manage depression using cognitive behavioral therapy. Eight of 10 popular gamification features reviewed were in use. The majority of studies utilized only one gamification feature (n=58) with a maximum of three features. The most commonly used feature was story/theme. Levels and game leaders were not used in this context. No studies explicitly examined the role of gamification features on program adherence. Usage data were not commonly reported. Interventions intended to be 10 weeks in duration had higher mean adherence than those intended to be 6 or 8 weeks in duration. Conclusions: Gamification features have been incorporated into the design of interventions designed to treat CMD and well-being. Further research is needed to improve understanding of gamification features on adherence and engagement in order to inform the design of future Web-based health interventions in which adherence to treatment is of concern. Conclusions were limited by varied reporting of adherence and usage data.

  • Image Source: Online Training Computer, copyright LeanForward lf,,
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution cc-by 2.0

    Effectiveness of Internet-Based Interventions for the Prevention of Mental Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis


    Background: Mental disorders are highly prevalent and associated with considerable disease burden and personal and societal costs. However, they can be effectively reduced through prevention measures. The Internet as a medium appears to be an opportunity for scaling up preventive interventions to a population level. Objective: The aim of this study was to systematically summarize the current state of research on Internet-based interventions for the prevention of mental disorders to give a comprehensive overview of this fast-growing field. Methods: A systematic database search was conducted (CENTRAL, Medline, PsycINFO). Studies were selected according to defined eligibility criteria (adult population, Internet-based mental health intervention, including a control group, reporting onset or severity data, randomized controlled trial). Primary outcome was onset of mental disorder. Secondary outcome was symptom severity. Study quality was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool. Meta-analytical pooling of results took place if feasible. Results: After removing duplicates, 1169 studies were screened of which 17 were eligible for inclusion. Most studies examined prevention of eating disorders or depression or anxiety. Two studies on posttraumatic stress disorder and 1 on panic disorder were also included. Overall study quality was moderate. Only 5 studies reported incidence data assessed by means of standardized clinical interviews (eg, SCID). Three of them found significant differences in onset with a number needed to treat of 9.3-41.3. Eleven studies found significant improvements in symptom severity with small-to-medium effect sizes (d=0.11- d=0.76) in favor of the intervention groups. The meta-analysis conducted for depression severity revealed a posttreatment pooled effect size of standardized mean difference (SMD) =−0.35 (95% CI, −0.57 to −0.12) for short-term follow-up, SMD = −0.22 (95% CI, −0.37 to −0.07) for medium-term follow-up, and SMD = −0.14 (95% CI, -0.36 to 0.07) for long-term follow-up in favor of the Internet-based psychological interventions when compared with waitlist or care as usual. Conclusions: Internet-based interventions are a promising approach to prevention of mental disorders, enhancing existing methods. Study results are still limited due to inadequate diagnostic procedures. To be able to appropriately comment on effectiveness, future studies need to report incidence data assessed by means of standardized interviews. Public health policy should promote research to reduce health care costs over the long term, and health care providers should implement existing, demonstrably effective interventions into routine care.

  • Using Internet. CC0 License. Source:

    Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention for the General Public: Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial


    Background: Mindfulness meditation interventions improve a variety of health conditions and quality of life, are inexpensive, easy to implement, have minimal if any side effects, and engage patients to take an active role in their treatment. However, the group format can be an obstacle for many to take structured meditation programs. Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention (IMMI) is a program that could make mindfulness meditation accessible to all people who want and need to receive it. However, the feasibility, acceptability, and ability of IMMI to increase meditation practice have yet to be evaluated. Objectives: The primary objectives of this pilot randomized controlled study were to (1) evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of IMMIs in the general population and (2) to evaluate IMMI’s ability to change meditation practice behavior. The secondary objective was to collect preliminary data on health outcomes. Methods: Potential participants were recruited from online and offline sources. In a randomized controlled trial, participants were allocated to IMMI or Access to Guided Meditation arm. IMMI included a 1-hour Web-based training session weekly for 6 weeks along with daily home practice guided meditations between sessions. The Access to Guided Meditation arm included a handout on mindfulness meditation and access to the same guided meditation practices that the IMMI participants received, but not the 1-hour Web-based training sessions. The study activities occurred through the participants’ own computer and Internet connection and with research-assistant telephone and email contact. Feasibility and acceptability were measured with enrollment and completion rates and participant satisfaction. The ability of IMMI to modify behavior and increase meditation practice was measured by objective adherence of daily meditation practice via Web-based forms. Self-report questionnaires of quality of life, self-efficacy, depression symptoms, sleep disturbance, perceived stress, and mindfulness were completed before and after the intervention period via Web-based surveys. Results: We enrolled 44 adults were enrolled and 31 adults completed all study activities. There were no group differences on demographics or important variables at baseline. Participants rated the IMMI arm higher than the Access to Guided Meditation arm on Client Satisfaction Questionnaire. IMMI was able to increase home practice behavior significantly compared to the Access to Guided Meditation arm: days practiced (P=.05), total minutes (P=.01), and average minutes (P=.05). As expected, there were no significant differences on health outcomes. Conclusions: In conclusion, IMMI was found to be feasible and acceptable. The IMMI arm had increased daily meditation practice compared with the Access to Guided Meditation control group. More interaction through staff and/or through built-in email or text reminders may increase daily practice even more. Future studies will examine IMMI’s efficacy at improving health outcomes in the general population and also compare it directly to the well-studied mindfulness-based group interventions to evaluate relative efficacy. Trial Registration: NCT02655835; (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation/ 6jUDuQsG2)

  • Image Source: Videoconference, copyright Joris Leermakers,,
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution cc-by 2.0

    Home-Based Psychiatric Outpatient Care Through Videoconferencing for Depression: A Randomized Controlled Follow-Up Trial


    Background: There is a tremendous opportunity for innovative mental health care solutions such as psychiatric care through videoconferencing to increase the number of people who have access to quality care. However, studies are needed to generate empirical evidence on the use of psychiatric outpatient care via videoconferencing, particularly in low- and middle-income countries and clinically unsupervised settings. Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of home-based treatment for mild depression through psychiatric consultations via videoconferencing. Methods: A randomized controlled trial with a 6- and 12-month follow-up including adults with mild depression treated in an ambulatory setting was conducted. In total, 107 participants were randomly allocated to the videoconferencing intervention group (n=53) or the face-to-face group (F2F; n=54). The groups did not differ with respect to demographic characteristics at baseline. The F2F group completed monthly follow-up consultations in person. The videoconferencing group received monthly follow-up consultations with a psychiatrist through videoconferencing at home. At baseline and after 6 and 12 months, in-person assessments were conducted with all participants. Clinical outcomes (severity of depression, mental health status, medication course, and relapses), satisfaction with treatment, therapeutic relationship, treatment adherence (appointment compliance and dropouts), and medication adherence were assessed. Results: The severity of depression decreased significantly over the 12-month follow-up in both the groups. There was a significant difference between groups regarding treatment outcomes throughout the follow-up period, with better results in the videoconferencing group. There were 4 relapses in the F2F group and only 1 in the videoconferencing group. No significant differences between groups regarding mental health status, satisfaction with treatment, therapeutic relationship, treatment adherence, or medication compliance were found. However, after 6 months, the rate of dropouts was significantly higher in the F2F group (18.5% vs 5.7% in the videoconferencing group, P<.05). Conclusions: Psychiatric treatment through videoconferencing in clinically unsupervised settings can be considered feasible and as effective as standard care (in-person treatment) for depressed outpatients with respect to clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction, therapeutic relationship, treatment adherence, and medication compliance. These results indicate the potential of telepsychiatry to extend access to psychiatric care to remote and underserved populations. Clinical Trial: NCT01901315; (Archived by WebCite at

  • Webconferencing with patient. Image sourced and copyright held by authors Minnie Rai et al.

    Barriers to Office-Based Mental Health Care and Interest in E-Communication With Providers: A Survey Study


    Background: With rising availability and use of Internet and mobile technology in society, the demand and need for its integration into health care is growing. Despite great potential within mental health care and growing uptake, there is still little evidence to guide how these tools should be integrated into traditional care, and for whom. Objective: To examine factors that might inform how e-communication should be implemented in our local outpatient mental health program, including barriers to traditional office-based care, patient preferences, and patient concerns. Methods: We conducted a survey in the waiting room of our outpatient mental health program located in an urban, academic ambulatory hospital. The survey assessed (1) age, mobile phone ownership, and general e-communication usage, (2) barriers to attending office-based appointments, (3) preferences for, and interest in, e-communication for mental health care, and (4) concerns about e-communication use for mental health care. We analyzed the data descriptively and examined associations between the presence of barriers, identifying as a social media user, and interest level in e-communication. Results: Respondents (N=68) were predominantly in the age range of 25-54 years. The rate of mobile phone ownership was 91% (62/68), and 59% (40/68) of respondents identified as social media users. There was very low existing use of e-communication between providers and patients, with high levels of interest endorsed by survey respondents. Respondents expressed an interest in using e-communication with their provider to share updates and get feedback, coordinate care, and get general information. In regression analysis, both a barrier to care and identifying as a social media user were significantly associated with e-communication interest (P=.03 and P=.003, respectively). E-communication interest was highest among people who both had a barrier to office-based care and were a social media user. Despite high interest, there were also many concerns including privacy and loss of in-person contact. Conclusions: A high burden of barriers to attending office-based care paired with a high interest in e-communication supports the integration of e-communication within our outpatient services. There may be early adopters to target: those with identified barriers to office-based care and who are active on social media. There is also a need for caution and preservation of existing services for those who choose not to, or cannot, access e-services.

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