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 sister 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:

  • Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

    Current Views and Perspectives on E-Mental Health: An Exploratory Survey Study for Understanding Public Attitudes Toward Internet-Based Psychotherapy in Germany

    Abstract:

    Background: Despite the advanced development of evidence-based psychological treatment services, help-seeking persons with mental health problems often fail to receive appropriate professional help. Internet-delivered psychotherapy has thus been suggested as an efficient strategy to overcome barriers to access mental health care on a large scale. However, previous research indicated poor public acceptability as an issue for the dissemination of Internet-delivered therapies. Currently, little is known about the expectations and attitudes toward Internet-delivered therapies in the general population. This is especially the case for countries such as Germany where electronic mental health (e-mental health) treatment services are planned to be implemented in routine care. Objective: This pilot study aimed to determine the expectations and attitudes toward Internet-based psychotherapy in the general population in Germany. Furthermore, it aimed to explore the associations between attitudes toward Internet-based therapies and perceived stress. Methods: To assess public attitudes toward Internet-based psychotherapy, we conducted both Web-based and paper-and-pencil surveys using a self-developed 14-item questionnaire (Cronbach alpha=.89). Psychological distress was measured by employing a visual analogue scale (VAS) and the 20-item German version of the Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ). In addition, we conducted explorative factor analysis (principal axis factor analysis with promax rotation). Spearman’s rank correlations were used to determine the associations between attitudes toward Internet-based therapies and perceived stress. Results: Descriptive analyses revealed that most respondents (N=1558; female: 78.95%, 1230/1558) indicated being not aware of the existence of Internet-delivered therapies (83.46%, 1141/1367). The average age was 32 years (standard deviation, SD 10.9; range 16-76). Through exploratory factor analysis, we identified 3 dimensions of public attitudes toward Internet-based therapies, which we labeled “usefulness or helpfulness,” “relative advantage or comparability,” and “accessibility or access to health care.” Analyses revealed negative views about Internet-based therapies on most domains, such as perceived helpfulness. The study findings further indicated ambivalent attitudes: Although most respondents agreed to statements on expected improvements in health care (eg, expanded access), we observed low intentions to future use of Internet-delivered therapies in case of mental health problems. Conclusions: This pilot study showed deficient “e-awareness” and rather negative or ambivalent attitudes toward Internet-delivered therapies in the German-speaking general population. However, research targeting determinants of the large-scale adoption of Internet-based psychotherapy is still in its infancy. Thus, further research is required to explore the “black box” of public attitudes toward Internet-delivered therapies with representative samples, validated measures, and longitudinal survey designs.

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    Applying Computerized Adaptive Testing to the Four-Dimensional Symptom Questionnaire (4DSQ): A Simulation Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Efficient screening questionnaires are useful in general practice. Computerized adaptive testing (CAT) is a method to improve the efficiency of questionnaires, as only the items that are particularly informative for a certain responder are dynamically selected. Objective: The objective of this study was to test whether CAT could improve the efficiency of the Four-Dimensional Symptom Questionnaire (4DSQ), a frequently used self-report questionnaire designed to assess common psychosocial problems in general practice. Methods: A simulation study was conducted using a sample of Dutch patients visiting a general practitioner (GP) with psychological problems (n=379). Responders completed a paper-and-pencil version of the 50-item 4DSQ and a psychometric evaluation was performed to check if the data agreed with item response theory (IRT) assumptions. Next, a CAT simulation was performed for each of the four 4DSQ scales (distress, depression, anxiety, and somatization), based on the given responses as if they had been collected through CAT. The following two stopping rules were applied for the administration of items: (1) stop if measurement precision is below a predefined level, or (2) stop if more than half of the items of the subscale are administered. Results: In general, the items of each of the four scales agreed with IRT assumptions. Application of the first stopping rule reduced the length of the questionnaire by 38% (from 50 to 31 items on average). When the second stopping rule was also applied, the total number of items could be reduced by 56% (from 50 to 22 items on average). Conclusions: CAT seems useful for improving the efficiency of the 4DSQ by 56% without losing a considerable amount of measurement precision. The CAT version of the 4DSQ may be useful as part of an online assessment to investigate the severity of mental health problems of patients visiting a GP. This simulation study is the first step needed for the development a CAT version of the 4DSQ. A CAT version of the 4DSQ could be of high value for Dutch GPs since increasing numbers of patients with mental health problems are visiting the general practice. In further research, the results of a real-time CAT should be compared with the results of the administration of the full scale.

  • Image Source: the authors, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

    Use of Online Forums for Perinatal Mental Illness, Stigma, and Disclosure: An Exploratory Model

    Abstract:

    Background: Perinatal mental illness is a global health concern; however, many women with the illness do not get the treatment they need to recover. Interventions that reduce the stigma around perinatal mental illness have the potential to enable women to disclose their symptoms to health care providers and consequently access treatment. There are many online forums for perinatal mental illness and thousands of women use them. Preliminary research suggests that online forums may promote help-seeking behavior, potentially because they have a role in challenging stigma. This study draws from these findings and theoretical concepts to present a model of forum use, stigma, and disclosure. Objective: This study tested a model that measured the mediating role of stigma between online forum use and disclosure of affective symptoms to health care providers. Methods: A Web-based survey of 200 women who were pregnant or had a child younger than 5 years and considered themselves to be experiencing psychological distress was conducted. Women were recruited through social media and questions measured forum usage, perinatal mental illness stigma, disclosure to health care providers, depression and anxiety symptoms, barriers to disclosure, and demographic information. Results: There was a significant positive indirect effect of length of forum use on disclosure of symptoms through internal stigma, b=0.40, bias-corrected and accelerated (BCa) 95% CI 0.13-0.85. Long-term forum users reported higher levels of internal stigma, and higher internal stigma was associated with disclosure of symptoms to health care providers when controlling for symptoms of depression and anxiety. Conclusions: Internal stigma mediates the relationship between length of forum use and disclosure to health care providers. Findings suggest that forums have the potential to enable women to recognize and reveal their internal stigma, which may in turn lead to greater disclosure of symptoms to health care providers. Clinicians could refer clients to trustworthy and moderated online forums that facilitate expression of perinatal mental illness stigma and promote disclosure to health care providers.

  • The Use of Facebook for Social Skills Training in Autism. URL: https://www.facebook.com/Project-Rex-MUSC-Autism-Spectrum-106695489364545/. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Social Skills Training for Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder Using Facebook (Project Rex Connect): A Survey Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) spend more time using electronic screen media than neurotypical peers; preliminary evidence suggests that computer-assisted or Web-based interventions may be beneficial for social skills acquisition. The current generation of adolescents accesses the Internet through computers or phones almost daily, and Facebook is the most frequently used social media platform among teenagers. This is the first research study to explore the use of Facebook as a therapeutic tool for adolescents with ASD. Objective: To study the feasibility and clinical impact of using a Web-based social platform in combination with social skills training for adolescents with ASD. Methods: This pilot study enrolled 6 participants (all males; mean age 14.1 years) in an online social skills training group using Facebook. Data was collected on the participants’ social and behavioral functioning at the start and conclusion of the intervention. Outcome measures included the Social Responsiveness Scale-2, the Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scale, and the Project Rex Parent Survey. Participants were surveyed at the conclusion of the intervention regarding their experience. Results: No statistically significant differences in measurable outcomes were observed. However, the online addition of Facebook was well received by participants and their parents. The Facebook intervention was able to be executed with a careful privacy protocol in place and at minimal safety risk to participants. Conclusions: The utilization of Facebook to facilitate delivery of social skills training for adolescents with ASD appears to be feasible, although the clinical impact of such an addition is still unclear. It is important to note that social difficulties of participants persisted with the addition of the online platform and participants still required assistance to engage with peers in an online environment. A Web-based intervention such as the one utilized in this study has the potential to reach a mass number of patients with ASD and could address disparities in access to in-person treatment services. However, the complexity and evolving nature of Facebook’s website and privacy settings leads to a number of unique online safety concerns that may limit its clinical utility. Issues encountered in our study support the development of an alternative and closed Web-based social platform designed specifically for the target audience with ASD; this platform could be a safer and more easily moderated setting for aiding in social skills development. Despite a small sample size with no statistically significant improvements of target symptoms, the use of electronic screen media as a therapeutic tool for adolescents with ASD is still a promising area of research warranting further investigation. Our study helps inform future obstacles regarding feasibility and safety.

  • Peer counseling interaction depicted using characters from the Crowdsourcing Mental Health course. Drawn by Felicia Romano for the authors. Copyright retained by the artist.

    A Web-Disseminated Self-Help and Peer Support Program Could Fill Gaps in Mental Health Care: Lessons From a Consumer Survey

    Abstract:

    Background: Self-guided mental health interventions that are disseminated via the Web have the potential to circumvent barriers to treatment and improve public mental health. However, self-guided interventions often fail to attract consumers and suffer from user nonadherence. Uptake of novel interventions could be improved by consulting consumers from the beginning of the development process in order to assess their interest and their preferences. Interventions can then be tailored using this feedback to optimize appeal. Objective: The aim of our study was to determine the level of public interest in a new mental health intervention that incorporates elements of self-help and peer counseling and that is disseminated via a Web-based training course; to identify predictors of interest in the program; and to identify consumer preferences for features of Web-based courses and peer support programs. Methods: We surveyed consumers via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to estimate interest in the self-help and peer support program. We assessed associations between demographic and clinical characteristics and interest in the program, and we obtained feedback on desired features of the program. Results: Overall, 63.9% (378/592) of respondents said that they would try the program; interest was lower but still substantial among those who were not willing or able to access traditional mental health services. Female gender, lower income, and openness to using psychotherapy were the most consistent predictors of interest in the program. The majority of respondents, although not all, preferred romantic partners or close friends as peer counselors and would be most likely to access the program if the training course were accessed on a stand-alone website. In general, respondents valued training in active listening skills. Conclusions: In light of the apparent public interest in this program, Web-disseminated self-help and peer support interventions have enormous potential to fill gaps in mental health care. The results of this survey can be used to inform the design of such interventions.

  • Doctor With Tablet. Image source: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=164023&picture=doctor-with-tablet. Author: George Hodan. Copyright: Public Domain.

    Tips and Traps: Lessons From Codesigning a Clinician E-Monitoring Tool for Computerized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

    Abstract:

    Background: Computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (cCBT) is an acceptable and promising treatment modality for adolescents with mild-to-moderate depression. Many cCBT programs are standalone packages with no way for clinicians to monitor progress or outcomes. We sought to develop an electronic monitoring (e-monitoring) tool in consultation with clinicians and adolescents to allow clinicians to monitor mood, risk, and treatment adherence of adolescents completing a cCBT program called SPARX (Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts). Objective: The objectives of our study were as follows: (1) assess clinicians’ and adolescents’ views on using an e-monitoring tool and to use this information to help shape the development of the tool and (2) assess clinician experiences with a fully developed version of the tool that was implemented in their clinical service. Methods: A descriptive qualitative study using semistructured focus groups was conducted in New Zealand. In total, 7 focus groups included clinicians (n=50) who worked in primary care, and 3 separate groups included adolescents (n=29). Clinicians were general practitioners (GPs), school guidance counselors, clinical psychologists, youth workers, and nurses. Adolescents were recruited from health services and a high school. Focus groups were run to enable feedback at 3 phases that corresponded to the consultation, development, and postimplementation stages. Thematic analysis was applied to transcribed responses. Results: Focus groups during the consultation and development phases revealed the need for a simple e-monitoring registration process with guides for end users. Common concerns were raised in relation to clinical burden, monitoring risk (and effects on the therapeutic relationship), alongside confidentiality or privacy and technical considerations. Adolescents did not want to use their social media login credentials for e-monitoring, as they valued their privacy. However, adolescents did want information on seeking help and personalized monitoring and communication arrangements. Postimplementation, clinicians who had used the tool in practice revealed no adverse impact on the therapeutic relationship, and adolescents were not concerned about being e-monitored. Clinicians did need additional time to monitor adolescents, and the e-monitoring tool was used in a different way than was originally anticipated. Also, it was suggested that the registration process could be further streamlined and integrated with existing clinical data management systems, and the use of clinician alerts could be expanded beyond the scope of simply flagging adolescents of concern. Conclusions: An e-monitoring tool was developed in consultation with clinicians and adolescents. However, the study revealed the complexity of implementing the tool in clinical practice. Of salience were privacy, parallel monitoring systems, integration with existing electronic medical record systems, customization of the e-monitor, and preagreed monitoring arrangements between clinicians and adolescents.

  • Computer problems. Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/83633410@N07/7658225516. Author: CollegeDegrees360. Copyright: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/.

    Using Real-Time Social Media Technologies to Monitor Levels of Perceived Stress and Emotional State in College Students: A Web-Based Questionnaire Study

    Abstract:

    Background: College can be stressful for many freshmen as they cope with a variety of stressors. Excess stress can negatively affect both psychological and physical health. Thus, there is a need to find innovative and cost-effective strategies to help identify students experiencing high levels of stress to receive appropriate treatment. Social media use has been rapidly growing, and recent studies have reported that data from these technologies can be used for public health surveillance. Currently, no studies have examined whether Twitter data can be used to monitor stress level and emotional state among college students. Objective: The primary objective of our study was to investigate whether students’ perceived levels of stress were associated with the sentiment and emotions of their tweets. The secondary objective was to explore whether students’ emotional state was associated with the sentiment and emotions of their tweets. Methods: We recruited 181 first-year freshman students aged 18-20 years at University of California, Los Angeles. All participants were asked to complete a questionnaire that assessed their demographic characteristics, levels of stress, and emotional state for the last 7 days. All questionnaires were completed within a 48-hour period. All tweets posted by the participants from that week (November 2 to 8, 2015) were mined and manually categorized based on their sentiment (positive, negative, neutral) and emotion (anger, fear, love, happiness) expressed. Ordinal regressions were used to assess whether weekly levels of stress and emotional states were associated with the percentage of positive, neutral, negative, anger, fear, love, or happiness tweets. Results: A total of 121 participants completed the survey and were included in our analysis. A total of 1879 tweets were analyzed. A higher level of weekly stress was significantly associated with a greater percentage of negative sentiment tweets (beta=1.7, SE 0.7; P=.02) and tweets containing emotions of fear (beta=2.4, SE 0.9; P=.01) and love (beta=3.6, SE 1.4; P=.01). A greater level of anger was negatively associated with the percentage of positive sentiment (beta=–1.6, SE 0.8; P=.05) and tweets related to the emotions of happiness (beta=–2.2, SE 0.9; P=.02). A greater level of fear was positively associated with the percentage of negative sentiment (beta=1.67, SE 0.7; P=.01), particularly a greater proportion of tweets related to the emotion of fear (beta=2.4, SE 0.8; P=.01). Participants who reported a greater level of love showed a smaller percentage of negative sentiment tweets (beta=–1.3, SE 0.7; P=0.05). Emotions of happiness were positively associated with the percentage of tweets related to the emotion of happiness (beta=–1.8, SE 0.8; P=.02) and negatively associated with percentage of negative sentiment tweets (beta=–1.7, SE 0.7; P=.02) and tweets related to the emotion of fear (beta=–2.8, SE 0.8; P=.01). Conclusions: Sentiment and emotions expressed in the tweets have the potential to provide real-time monitoring of stress level and emotional well-being in college students.

  • Using internet to get information about the psychotic disorders. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    How Do People Experiencing Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders or Other Psychotic Disorders Use the Internet to Get Information on Their Mental Health?...

    Abstract:

    Background: Studies show that the Internet has become an influential source of information for people experiencing serious psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia spectrum disorders or other psychotic disorders, among which the rate of Internet users is growing, with rates ranging from 33.3% to 79.5% given the country. Between 20.5% and 56.4% of these Internet users seek mental health information. Objective: Focusing on this population’s Web searches about their mental health, this paper examines what type of content they look for and what could be the benefits and disadvantages of this navigation. Methods: We conducted a literature review through medical and psychological databases between 2000 and 2015 using the keywords “Internet,” “Web,” “virtual,” “health information,” “schizophrenia,” “psychosis,” “e-mental health,” “e-support,” and “telepsychiatry.” Results: People experiencing schizophrenia spectrum disorders or other psychotic disorders wish to find on the Internet trustful, nonstigmatizing information about their disease, flexibility, security standards, and positive peer-to-peer exchanges. E-mental health also appears to be desired by a substantial proportion of them. In this field, the current developments towards intervention and early prevention in the areas of depression and bipolar and anxiety disorders become more and more operational for schizophrenia spectrum disorders and other psychotic disorders as well. The many benefits of the Internet as a source of information and support, such as empowerment, enhancement of self-esteem, relief from peer information, better social interactions, and more available care, seem to outbalance the difficulties. Conclusions: In this paper, after discussing the challenges related to the various aspects of the emergence of the Internet into the life of people experiencing schizophrenia spectrum disorders or other psychotic disorders, we will suggest areas of future research and practical recommendations for this major transition.

  • A menu page from Healthy Paths. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Developing an Unguided Internet-Delivered Intervention for Emotional Distress in Primary Care Patients: Applying Common Factor and Person-Based Approaches

    Abstract:

    Background: Developing effective, unguided Internet interventions for mental health represents a challenge. Without structured human guidance, engagement with these interventions is often limited and the effectiveness reduced. If their effectiveness can be increased, they have great potential for broad, low-cost dissemination. Improving unguided Internet interventions for mental health requires a renewed focus on the proposed underlying mechanisms of symptom improvement and the involvement of target users from the outset. Objective: The aim of our study was to develop an unguided e-mental health intervention for distress in primary care patients, drawing on meta-theory of psychotherapeutic change and utilizing the person-based approach (PBA) to guide iterative qualitative piloting with patients. Methods: Common factors meta-theory informed the selection and structure of therapeutic content, enabling flexibility whilst retaining the proposed necessary ingredients for effectiveness. A logic model was designed outlining intervention components and proposed mechanisms underlying improvement. The PBA provided a framework for systematically incorporating target-user perspective into the intervention development. Primary care patients (N=20) who had consulted with emotional distress in the last 12 months took part in exploratory qualitative interviews, and a subsample (n=13) undertook think-aloud interviews with a prototype of the intervention. Results: A flexible intervention was developed, to be used as and when patients need, diverting from a more traditional, linear approach. Based on the in-depth qualitative findings, disorder terms such as “depression” were avoided, and discussions of psychological symptoms were placed in the context of stressful life events. Think-aloud interviews showed that patients were positive about the design and structure of the intervention. On the basis of patient feedback, modifications were made to increase immediate access to all therapeutic techniques. Conclusions: Detailing theoretical assumptions underlying Internet interventions for mental health, and integrating this approach with systematic in-depth qualitative research with target patients is important. These strategies may provide novel ways for addressing the challenges of unguided delivery. The resulting intervention, Healthy Paths, will be evaluated in primary care-based randomized controlled trials, and deployed as a massive open online intervention (MOOI).

  • One of the social cognition exercises used in Creating Live Interactions to Mitigate Barriers (CLIMB). Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Creating Live Interactions to Mitigate Barriers (CLIMB): A Mobile Intervention to Improve Social Functioning in People With Chronic Psychotic Disorders

    Abstract:

    Background: Numerous psychosocial interventions for individuals with chronic psychotic disorders (CPD) have shown positive effects on social cognitive and functional outcome measures. However, access to and engagement with these interventions remains limited. This is partly because these interventions require specially trained therapists, are not available in all clinical settings, and have a high scheduling burden for participants, usually requiring a commitment of several weeks. Delivering interventions remotely via mobile devices may facilitate access, improve scheduling flexibility, and decrease participant burden, thus improving adherence to intervention requirements. To address these needs, we designed the Creating Live Interactions to Mitigate Barriers (CLIMB) digital intervention, which aims to enhance social functioning in people with CPD. CLIMB consists of two treatment components: a computerized social cognition training (SCT) program and optimized remote group therapy (ORGT). ORGT is an innovative treatment that combines remote group therapy with group texting (short message service, SMS). Objectives: The objectives of this single-arm study were to investigate the feasibility of delivering 6 weeks of CLIMB to people with CPD and explore the initial effects on outcomes. Methods: Participants were recruited, screened and enrolled via the Internet, and delivered assessments and interventions remotely using provided tablets (iPads). Participants were asked to complete 18 hours of SCT and to attend 6 remote group therapy sessions. To assess feasibility, adherence to study procedures, attrition rates, engagement metrics, and acceptability of the intervention were evaluated. Changes on measures of social cognition, quality of life, and symptoms were also explored. Results: In total, 27 participants were enrolled over 12 months. Remote assessments were completed successfully on 96% (26/27) of the enrolled participants. Retention in the 6-week trial was 78% (21/27). Of all the iPads used, 95% (22/23) were returned undamaged at the end of the intervention. Participants on average attended 84% of the group therapy sessions, completed a median of 9.5 hours of SCT, and posted a median of 5.2 messages per week on the group text chat. Participants rated CLIMB in the medium range in usability, acceptability, enjoyment, and perceived benefit. Participants showed significant improvements in emotion identification abilities for prosodic happiness (P=.001), prosodic happiness intensity (P=.04), and facial anger (P=.04), with large within-group effect sizes (d=.60 to d=.86). Trend-level improvements were observed on aspects of quality of life (P values less than .09). No improvements were observed for symptoms. Conclusions: It is feasible and acceptable to remotely deliver an intervention aimed at enhancing social functioning in people with CPD using mobile devices. This approach may represent a scalable method to increase treatment access and adherence. Our pilot data also demonstrate within-group gains in some aspects of social cognition after 6 weeks of CLIMB. Future randomized controlled studies in larger samples should evaluate the extent to which CLIMB significantly improves social cognition, symptoms, and quality of life in CPD.

  • 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.

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  • Mental & Emotional Self-Help Technology Apps: Their Efficacy and Theoretical Mechanisms of Behavior Change

    Date Submitted: Jan 5, 2017

    Open Peer Review Period: Jan 6, 2017 - Mar 3, 2017

    Background: Mental and emotional self-help apps have emerged as potential mental illness prevention and treatment tools. The health behavior theory mechanisms by which these apps influence mental hea...

    Background: Mental and emotional self-help apps have emerged as potential mental illness prevention and treatment tools. The health behavior theory mechanisms by which these apps influence mental health-related behavior change has not been thoroughly examined. Objective: This study examines the theoretical mechanisms by which mental and emotional self-help apps change behavior. Methods: Cross-sectional survey of 150 users of mental or emotional health apps in the past six months. Survey questions included theory-based items, app engagement and likeability items, and behavior change items. Stata version 14 was used to calculate all statistics. Descriptive statistics were calculated for each of the demographic, theory, engagement and behavior variables. Multiple regression analysis was used to identify factors associated with reported changes in theory and separately for reported changes in actual behavior, after controlling for potentially confounding variables. Results: In multivariate regression analyses, engagement (P < .001) was positively associated with the reported changes in the theory items. In the multivariate regression model with behavior change as the dependent variable, theory was positively associated (p < .001) as were engagement (P = .004), frequency of app(s) use (P = .013), and income (P = .049). Conclusions: Participants’ reported that app use increased their motivation, desire to set goals, confidence, control, and intentions to be mentally and emotionally healthy. These increases in perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes surrounding their mental and emotional health were significantly associated with perceived change in behavior. There was a positive association between the level of engagement with the app(s) and the impact on theory items. Future efforts should consider the value of impacting key theoretical constructs when designing mental and emotional health apps. As apps are evaluated and additional theory-based apps are created, cost-effective self-help apps may become common preventative and treatment tools in the mental health field. Clinical Trial: N/A

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