JMIR Publications

JMIR Mental Health

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

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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 (jmir.editorial.office at gmail.com).

 

Recent Articles:

  • CopeSmart. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Ecological Momentary Assessment of Adolescent Problems, Coping Efficacy, and Mood States Using a Mobile Phone App: An Exploratory Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Mobile technologies have the potential to be used as innovative tools for conducting research on the mental health and well-being of young people. In particular, they have utility for carrying out ecological momentary assessment (EMA) research by capturing data from participants in real time as they go about their daily lives. Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the utility of a mobile phone app as a means of collecting EMA data pertaining to mood, problems, and coping efficacy in a school-based sample of Irish young people. Methods: The study included a total of 208 participants who were aged 15-18 years, 64% female (113/208), recruited from second-level schools in Ireland, and who downloaded the CopeSmart mobile phone app as part of a randomized controlled trial. On the app, participants initially responded to 5 single-item measures of key protective factors in youth mental health (formal help-seeking, informal help-seeking, sleep, exercise, and sense of belonging). They were then encouraged to use the app daily to input data relating to mood states (happiness, sadness, anger, stress, and worry), daily problems, and coping self-efficacy. The app automatically collected data pertaining to user engagement over the course of the 28-day intervention period. Students also completed pen and paper questionnaires containing standardized measures of emotional distress (Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale; DASS-21), well-being (World Health Organization Well-Being Index; WHO-5), and coping (Coping Strategies Inventory; CSI). Results: On average the participants completed 18% (5/28) of daily ratings, and engagement levels did not differ across gender, age, school, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or nationality. On a scale of 1 to 10, happiness was consistently the highest rated mood state (overall mean 6.56), and anger was consistently the lowest (overall mean 2.11). Pearson correlations revealed that average daily ratings of emotional states were associated with standardized measures of emotional distress (rhappiness=–.45, rsadness=.51, ranger=.32, rstress=.41, rworry=.48) and well-being (rhappiness=.39, rsadness =–.43, ranger=–.27, rstress=–.35, rworry=–.33). Inferential statistics indicated that single-item indicators of key protective factors were related to emotional distress, well-being, and average daily mood states, as measured by EMA ratings. Hierarchical regressions revealed that greater daily problems were associated with more negative daily mood ratings (all at the P<.001 level); however, when coping efficacy was taken into account, the relationship between problems and happiness, sadness, and anger became negligible. Conclusions: While engagement with the app was low, overall the EMA data collected in this exploratory study appeared valid and provided useful insights into the relationships between daily problems, coping efficacy, and mood states. Future research should explore ways to increase engagement with EMA mobile phone apps in adolescent populations to maximize the amount of data captured by these tools. Trial Registration: Clinicaltrials.gov NCT02265978; http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02265978 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6mMeYqseA).

  • MoodPrism. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors Rickard, N, Arjmand, H, Bakker, D, Seabrook, E.

    Development of a Mobile Phone App to Support Self-Monitoring of Emotional Well-Being: A Mental Health Digital Innovation

    Abstract:

    Background: Emotional well-being is a primary component of mental health and well-being. Monitoring changes in emotional state daily over extended periods is, however, difficult using traditional methodologies. Providing mental health support is also challenging when approximately only 1 in 2 people with mental health issues seek professional help. Mobile phone technology offers a sustainable means of enhancing self-management of emotional well-being. Objective: This paper aims to describe the development of a mobile phone tool designed to monitor emotional changes in a natural everyday context and in real time. Methods: This evidence-informed mobile phone app monitors emotional mental health and well-being, and it provides links to mental health organization websites and resources. The app obtains data via self-report psychological questionnaires, experience sampling methodology (ESM), and automated behavioral data collection. Results: Feedback from 11 individuals (age range 16-52 years; 4 males, 7 females), who tested the app over 30 days, confirmed via survey and focus group methods that the app was functional and usable. Conclusions: Recommendations for future researchers and developers of mental health apps to be used for research are also presented. The methodology described in this paper offers a powerful tool for a range of potential mental health research studies and provides a valuable standard against which development of future mental health apps should be considered.

  • Social Media Networking. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Social Networking Sites, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review

    Abstract:

    Background: Social networking sites (SNSs) have become a pervasive part of modern culture, which may also affect mental health. Objective: The aim of this systematic review was to identify and summarize research examining depression and anxiety in the context of SNSs. It also aimed to identify studies that complement the assessment of mental illness with measures of well-being and examine moderators and mediators that add to the complexity of this environment. Methods: A multidatabase search was performed. Papers published between January 2005 and June 2016 relevant to mental illness (depression and anxiety only) were extracted and reviewed. Results: Positive interactions, social support, and social connectedness on SNSs were consistently related to lower levels of depression and anxiety, whereas negative interaction and social comparisons on SNSs were related to higher levels of depression and anxiety. SNS use related to less loneliness and greater self-esteem and life satisfaction. Findings were mixed for frequency of SNS use and number of SNS friends. Different patterns in the way individuals with depression and individuals with social anxiety engage with SNSs are beginning to emerge. Conclusions: The systematic review revealed many mixed findings between depression, anxiety, and SNS use. Methodology has predominantly focused on self-report cross-sectional approaches; future research will benefit from leveraging real-time SNS data over time. The evidence suggests that SNS use correlates with mental illness and well-being; however, whether this effect is beneficial or detrimental depends at least partly on the quality of social factors in the SNS environment. Understanding these relationships will lead to better utilization of SNSs in their potential to positively influence mental health.

  • University Students. Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jirka_matousek/8431572046/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.

    Awareness, Access and Use of Internet Self-Help Websites for Depression by University Students

    Abstract:

    Background: University students have a higher prevalence rate of depression than the average 18 to 24 year old. Internet self-help has been demonstrated to be effective in decreasing self-rated measures of depression in this population, so it is important to explore the awareness, access and use of such self-help resources in this population. Objective: The objective of this study is to explore university students’ awareness, access and use of Internet self-help websites for depression and related problems. Methods: A total of 2691 university students were surveyed at 3 time points. Results: When asked about browsing behavior, 69.6% (1494/2146) of students reported using the Internet for entertainment. Most students were not familiar with self-help websites for emotional health, although this awareness increased as they completed further assessments. Most students considered user-friendliness, content and interactivity as very important in the design of a self-help website. After being exposed to a self-help website, more students reported visiting websites for emotional health than those who had not been exposed. Conclusions: More students reported visiting self-help websites after becoming aware of such resources. Increased awareness of depression and related treatment resources may increase use of such resources. It is important to increase public awareness with the aim of increasing access to targeted strategies for young people.

  • 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

    Abstract:

    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

    Abstract:

    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; http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN25429892 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6ko1Fsvym)

  • 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

    Abstract:

    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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/7003178857/. 
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

    Abstract:

    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

    Abstract:

    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: https://pixabay.com/en/eggs-expression-happy-sad-390224/. License: CC0 Public Domain.

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

    Abstract:

    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...

    Abstract:

    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

    Abstract:

    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.

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