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 2014: 3.4). 

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:

  • Perinatal Depression. Source Moore et al. Copyright owned and provided by Moore et al.

    A Thematic Analysis of Stigma and Disclosure for Perinatal Depression on an Online Forum


    Background: Perinatal mental illness is a global health concern; however, many women do not get the treatment they need to recover. Some women choose not to seek professional help and get no treatment because they feel stigmatized. Online forums for various health conditions, including perinatal mental health, can be beneficial for members. Little is known about the role that online forums for perinatal mental illness play in reducing stigma and subsequent disclosure of symptoms to health care providers and treatment uptake. Objective: This study aimed to examine stigma and disclosure in forums and describe any potential disadvantages of forum use. Methods: An online forum for mothers was examined and 1546 messages extracted from 102 threads from the antenatal and postnatal depression section. These messages were subjected to deductive systematic thematic analysis to identify common themes regarding stigma and disclosure of symptoms and potential disadvantages of forum use. Results: Two major themes were identified: stigma and negative experiences of disclosure. Stigma had 3 subthemes: internal stigma, external stigma, and treatment stigma. Many women were concerned about feeling like a “bad” or “failed” mother and worried that if they disclosed their symptoms to a health care provider they would be stigmatized. Posts in response to this frequently encouraged women to disclose their symptoms to health care providers and accept professional treatment. Forum discourse reconstructed the ideology of motherhood as compatible with perinatal mental illness, especially if the woman sought help and adhered to treatment. Many women overcame stigma and replied that they had taken advice and disclosed to a health care provider and/or taken treatment. Conclusions: Forum use may increase women's disclosure to health care providers by challenging their internal and external stigma and this may strengthen professional treatment uptake and adherence. However, a few posts described negative experiences when disclosing to health care providers.

  • Image Source: Skyping with the family. Image sourced and Copyright owned by Thomas Lillis IV. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution cc-by 2.0

    Consensus Among International Ethical Guidelines for the Provision of Videoconferencing-Based Mental Health Treatments


    Background: Online technologies may reduce barriers to evidence-based mental health care, yet they also create numerous ethical challenges. Recently, numerous professional organizations and expert groups have produced best-practice guidelines to assist mental health professionals in delivering online interventions in an ethically and clinically sound manner. However, there has been little critical examination of these international best-practice guidelines regarding appropriate electronic mental health (e-mental health) service delivery via technologies such as videoconferencing (including Skype), particularly for specific, vulnerable populations. Further, the extent to which concordance exists between these guidelines remains unclear. Synthesizing this literature to provide clear guidance to both mental health professionals and researchers is critical to ensure continued progress in the field of e-mental health. Objective: This study aims to review all currently available ethical and best-practice guidelines relating to videoconferencing-delivered mental health treatments in order to ascertain the recommendations for which international consensus could be found. Additionally, this review examines the extent to which each set of guidance addresses several key special populations, including children and young people, and populations living with illness. Methods: This systematic review examined guidelines using a two-armed search strategy, examining (1) professional organizations’ published guidance; and (2) MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and EMBASE for the past ten years. In order to determine consensus for best-practice, a recommendation was considered "firm" if 50% or more of the reviewed guidelines endorsed it and "tentative" if recommended by fewer guidelines than these. The professional guidelines were also scored by two raters using the Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation II (AGREE-II) criteria. Results: In the study, 19 guidelines were included, yielding 11 specific "firm" and a further 123 "tentative-level" recommendations regarding the appropriateness of e-mental health, competence, legal and regulatory issues, confidentiality, consent, professional boundaries, and crisis management. International consensus yielded firm guidance across almost all areas except professional boundaries and some aspects of determining the appropriateness of e-mental health. Few guidelines specifically addressed special populations. Overall guideline quality varied; however, 42% (8/19) of the guidelines scored at least 5 out of 7. Conclusions: This synthesis of guidelines provides a foundation for clinicians and researchers utilizing e-mental health worldwide. The lack of specific guidance relating to special populations is an area warranting further attention in order to strengthen mental health professionals’ and researchers’ capacity to ethically and effectively tailor e-mental health interventions to these groups.

  • Source:, CC0 Public Domain.

    Direction to an Internet Support Group Compared With Online Expressive Writing for People With Depression And Anxiety: A Randomized Trial


    Background: Depression and anxiety are common, often comorbid, conditions, and Internet support groups for them are well used. However, little rigorous research has been conducted on the outcome of these groups. Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of an Internet support group in reducing depression and anxiety, and increasing social support and life satisfaction. Methods: A randomized trial compared direction to an existing Internet support group for depression and anxiety with an online expressive writing condition. A total of 863 (628 female) United Kingdom, United States, and Canadian volunteers were recruited via the Internet. Online, self-report measures of depression, anxiety, social support, and satisfaction with life were administered at baseline, 3, and 6 months. Results: All four outcomes – depression, anxiety, social support, and satisfaction with life – improved over the 6 months of the study (all P <.001). There was no difference in outcome between the two conditions: participants responded similarly to the expressive writing and the Internet support group. Engagement with the Internet support group was low, it had high 6-month attrition (692/795, 87%) and low adherence, and it received mixed and often negative feedback. The main problems reported were a lack of comfort and connection with others, negative social comparisons, and the potential for receiving bad advice. Expressive writing had lower attrition (194/295, 65%) and participants reported that it was more acceptable. Conclusions: Until further evidence accumulates, directing people with depression and anxiety to Internet support groups cannot be recommended. On the other hand, online expressive writing seems to have potential, and its use for people with depression and anxiety warrants further investigation. Trial Registration: Trial Registration: NCT01149265; (Archived by WebCite at

  • Source:; CC0 Public Domain.

    Validating Machine Learning Algorithms for Twitter Data Against Established Measures of Suicidality


    Background: One of the leading causes of death in the United States (US) is suicide and new methods of assessment are needed to track its risk in real time. Objective: Our objective is to validate the use of machine learning algorithms for Twitter data against empirically validated measures of suicidality in the US population. Methods: Using a machine learning algorithm, the Twitter feeds of 135 Mechanical Turk (MTurk) participants were compared with validated, self-report measures of suicide risk. Results: Our findings show that people who are at high suicidal risk can be easily differentiated from those who are not by machine learning algorithms, which accurately identify the clinically significant suicidal rate in 92% of cases (sensitivity: 53%, specificity: 97%, positive predictive value: 75%, negative predictive value: 93%). Conclusions: Machine learning algorithms are efficient in differentiating people who are at a suicidal risk from those who are not. Evidence for suicidality can be measured in nonclinical populations using social media data.

  • Untitled.

    Process and Effects Evaluation of a Digital Mental Health Intervention Targeted at Improving Occupational Well-Being: Lessons From an Intervention Study With...


    Background: Digital interventions have the potential to serve as cost-effective ways to manage occupational stress and well-being. However, little is known about the adoption of individual-level digital interventions at organizations. Objectives: The aim of this paper is to study the effects of an unguided digital mental health intervention in occupational well-being and the factors that influence the adoption of the intervention. Methods: The intervention was based on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and its aim was to teach skills for stress management and mental well-being. It was delivered via a mobile and a Web-based app that were offered to employees of two information and communication technology (ICT) companies. The primary outcome measures were perceived stress and work engagement, measured by a 1-item stress questionnaire (Stress) and the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES-9). The intervention process was evaluated regarding the change mechanisms and intervention stages using mixed methods. The initial interviews were conducted face-to-face with human resource managers (n=2) of both companies in August 2013. The participants were recruited via information sessions and email invitations. The intervention period took place between November 2013 and March 2014. The participants were asked to complete online questionnaires at baseline, two months, and four months after the baseline measurement. The final phone interviews for the volunteer participants (n=17) and the human resource managers (n=2) were conducted in April to May 2014, five months after the baseline. Results: Of all the employees, only 27 (8.1%, 27/332) took the app into use, with a mean use of 4.8 (SD 4.7) different days. In the beginning, well-being was on good level in both companies and no significant changes in well-being were observed. The activities of the intervention process failed to integrate the intervention into everyday activities at the workplace. Those who took the app into use experienced many benefits such as relief in stressful situations. The app was perceived as a toolkit for personal well-being that gives concrete instructions on how mindfulness can be practiced. However, many barriers to participate in the intervention were identified at the individual level, such as lack of time, lack of perceived need, and lack of perceived benefits. Conclusions: The findings suggest that neither the setting nor the approach used in this study were successful in adopting new digital interventions at the target organizations. Barriers were faced at both the organizational as well as the individual level. At the organizational level, top management needs to be involved in the intervention planning for fitting into the organization policies, the existing technology infrastructure, and also targeting the organizational goals. At the individual level, concretizing the benefits of the preventive intervention and arranging time for app use at the workplace are likely to increase adoption.

  • A schematic of the proposed pilot study for patients with schizophrenia using the Beiwe platform.

    New Tools for New Research in Psychiatry: A Scalable and Customizable Platform to Empower Data Driven Smartphone Research


    Background: A longstanding barrier to progress in psychiatry, both in clinical settings and research trials, has been the persistent difficulty of accurately and reliably quantifying disease phenotypes. Mobile phone technology combined with data science has the potential to offer medicine a wealth of additional information on disease phenotypes, but the large majority of existing smartphone apps are not intended for use as biomedical research platforms and, as such, do not generate research-quality data. Objective: Our aim is not the creation of yet another app per se but rather the establishment of a platform to collect research-quality smartphone raw sensor and usage pattern data. Our ultimate goal is to develop statistical, mathematical, and computational methodology to enable us and others to extract biomedical and clinical insights from smartphone data. Methods: We report on the development and early testing of Beiwe, a research platform featuring a study portal, smartphone app, database, and data modeling and analysis tools designed and developed specifically for transparent, customizable, and reproducible biomedical research use, in particular for the study of psychiatric and neurological disorders. We also outline a proposed study using the platform for patients with schizophrenia. Results: We demonstrate the passive data capabilities of the Beiwe platform and early results of its analytical capabilities. Conclusions: Smartphone sensors and phone usage patterns, when coupled with appropriate statistical learning tools, are able to capture various social and behavioral manifestations of illnesses, in naturalistic settings, as lived and experienced by patients. The ubiquity of smartphones makes this type of moment-by-moment quantification of disease phenotypes highly scalable and, when integrated within a transparent research platform, presents tremendous opportunities for research, discovery, and patient health.

  • Image Credit: (c) geralt, from (, licensed under cc-by-nc 3.0.

    Digital Technology Use Among Individuals with Schizophrenia: Results of an Online Survey


    Background: Despite growing interest in the use of digital technology by individuals with schizophrenia, little is known about how these individual relate to, own, and use technology in their daily life and in the context of their symptoms. Objective: The goal of this study is to better characterize technology use in those with schizophrenia. Methods: A Web-based survey of individuals’ use of and attitudes toward technology for those 18 years and older self-identifying as having schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or schizophrenia spectrum disorders was conducted. Consumer input was sought in the design of the survey. Results: In total, 457 individuals responded to this Web-based survey. Ninety percent owned more than one device (personal computer, landline telephone, tablet, public computer, mobile phone without applications or Internet, or smartphone), with many reporting high utilization of multiple devices, and 61% having 2 devices. The respondents reported that Web-based technology helped with support from family and friends, as well as in gathering information. Many respondents used Web-based technology to help identify coping strategies (24% very often or often) including music to help block or manage voices (42%), while others used technology to set alarms/reminders for medication management (28%). Younger respondents in particular anticipated the role of technology growing over time with respect to their recovery. Conclusions: Survey respondents reported that technology access was common, with utilization involving coping, reminders for medications and appointments, and connection. Overall, attitudes were largely positive. Overuse was a concern for 30% of respondents. The study is limited in its generalizability as the population was highly engaged in mental health treatment (87%), self-identified as living with the disorder, and had awareness of their illness. This survey demonstrates high engagement for a subset of technology-oriented individuals living with schizophrenia. It is not known what percent of individuals with schizophrenia are represented by these technology-oriented survey respondents.

  • Perinatal mood disorders landing page.

    Adjusting an Available Online Peer Support Platform in a Program to Supplement the Treatment of Perinatal Depression and Anxiety


    Background: Perinatal depression and anxiety are common and debilitating conditions. Novel, cost effective services could improve the uptake and the impact of mental health resources among women who suffer from these conditions. E-mental health products are one example of such services. Many publically available e-mental health products exist, but these products lack validation and are not designed to be integrated into existing health care settings. Objective: The objective of the study was to present a program to use 7 Cups of Tea (7Cups), an available technological platform that provides online peer (ie, listener) based emotional support, to supplement treatment for women experiencing perinatal depression or anxiety and to summarize patient’s feedback on the resultant program. Methods: This study consisted of two stages. First, five clinicians specializing in the treatment of perinatal mood disorders received an overview of 7Cups. They provided feedback on the 7Cups platform and ways it could complement the existing treatment efforts to inform further adjustments. In the second stage, nine women with perinatal depression or anxiety used the platform for a single session and provided feedback. Results: In response to clinicians’ feedback, guidelines for referring patients to use 7Cups as a supplement for treatment were created, and a training program for listeners was developed. Patients found the platform usable and useful and their attitudes toward the trained listeners were positive. Overall, patients noted a need for support outside the scheduled therapy time and believed that freely available online emotional support could help meet this need. Most patients were interested in receiving support from first time mothers and those who suffered in the past from perinatal mood disorders. Conclusions: The study results highlight the use of 7Cups as a tool to introduce accessible and available support into existing treatment for women who suffer from perinatal mood disorders. Further research should focus on the benefits accrued from such a service. However, this article highlights how a publicly available eHealth product can be leveraged to create new services in a health care setting.

  • Image Source: Smart phone Depression 4, copyright Miroslav Hristøff,,
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution cc-by 2.0

    Mental Health Smartphone Apps: Review and Evidence-Based Recommendations for Future Developments


    Background: The number of mental health apps (MHapps) developed and now available to smartphone users has increased in recent years. MHapps and other technology-based solutions have the potential to play an important part in the future of mental health care; however, there is no single guide for the development of evidence-based MHapps. Many currently available MHapps lack features that would greatly improve their functionality, or include features that are not optimized. Furthermore, MHapp developers rarely conduct or publish trial-based experimental validation of their apps. Indeed, a previous systematic review revealed a complete lack of trial-based evidence for many of the hundreds of MHapps available. Objective: To guide future MHapp development, a set of clear, practical, evidence-based recommendations is presented for MHapp developers to create better, more rigorous apps. Methods: A literature review was conducted, scrutinizing research across diverse fields, including mental health interventions, preventative health, mobile health, and mobile app design. Results: Sixteen recommendations were formulated. Evidence for each recommendation is discussed, and guidance on how these recommendations might be integrated into the overall design of an MHapp is offered. Each recommendation is rated on the basis of the strength of associated evidence. It is important to design an MHapp using a behavioral plan and interactive framework that encourages the user to engage with the app; thus, it may not be possible to incorporate all 16 recommendations into a single MHapp. Conclusions: Randomized controlled trials are required to validate future MHapps and the principles upon which they are designed, and to further investigate the recommendations presented in this review. Effective MHapps are required to help prevent mental health problems and to ease the burden on health systems.

  • Image Source: John Maddin via FlickR, Garry Knight, CC BY-ND 2.0.

    Therapeutic Alliance With a Fully Automated Mobile Phone and Web-Based Intervention: Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial


    Background: Studies of Internet-delivered psychotherapies suggest that clients report development of a therapeutic alliance in the Internet environment. Because a majority of the interventions studied to date have been therapist-assisted to some degree, it remains unclear whether a therapeutic alliance can develop within the context of an Internet-delivered self-guided intervention with no therapist support, and whether this has consequences for program outcomes. Objective: This study reports findings of a secondary analysis of data from 90 participants with mild-to-moderate depression, anxiety, and/or stress who used a fully automated mobile phone and Web-based cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) intervention called “myCompass” in a recent randomized controlled trial (RCT). Methods: Symptoms, functioning, and positive well-being were assessed at baseline and post-intervention using the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS), the Work and Social Adjustment Scale (WSAS), and the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form (MHC-SF). Therapeutic alliance was measured at post-intervention using the Agnew Relationship Measure (ARM), and this was supplemented with qualitative data obtained from 16 participant interviews. Extent of participant engagement with the program was also assessed. Results: Mean ratings on the ARM subscales were above the neutral midpoints, and the interviewees provided rich detail of a meaningful and collaborative therapeutic relationship with the myCompass program. Whereas scores on the ARM subscales did not correlate with treatment outcomes, participants’ ratings of the quality of their emotional connection with the program correlated significantly and positively with program logins, frequency of self-monitoring, and number of treatment modules completed (r values between .32-.38, P≤.002). The alliance (ARM) subscales measuring perceived empowerment (r=.26, P=.02) and perceived freedom to self-disclose (r=.25, P=.04) also correlated significantly in a positive direction with self-monitoring frequency. Conclusions: Quantitative and qualitative findings from this analysis showed that a positive therapeutic alliance can develop in the Internet environment in the absence of therapist support, and that components of the alliance may have implications for program usage. Further investigation of alliance features in the Internet environment and the consequences of these for treatment outcomes and user engagement is warranted. Trial Registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry Number (ACTRN): 12610000625077; (Archived by WebCite at

  • Image Source: Licensed under cc-by-sa 2.5.

    Mixing Online and Face-to-Face Therapy: How to Benefit From Blended Care in Mental Health Care


    Blended care, a combination of online and face-to-face therapy, is increasingly being applied in mental health care to obtain optimal benefit from the advantages these two treatment modalities have. Promising results have been reported, but a variety in descriptions and ways of operationalizing blended care exists. Currently, what type of “blend” works for whom, and why, is unclear. Furthermore, a rationale for setting up blended care is often lacking. In this viewpoint paper, we describe postulates for blended care and provide an instrument (Fit for Blended Care) that aims to assist therapists and patients whether and how to set up blended care treatment. A review of the literature, two focus groups (n=5 and n=5), interviews with therapists (n=14), and interviews with clients (n=2) were conducted to develop postulates of eHealth and blended care and an instrument to assist therapists and clients in setting up optimal blended care. Important postulates for blended care are the notion that both treatment modalities should complement each other and that set up of blended treatment should be based on shared decision making between patient and therapist. The “Fit for Blended Care” instrument is presented which addresses the following relevant themes: possible barriers to receiving blended treatment such as the risk of crisis, issues in communication (at a distance), as well as possible facilitators such as social support. More research into the reasons why and for whom blended care works is needed. To benefit from blended care, face-to-face and online care should be combined in such way that the potentials of both treatment modalities are used optimally, depending on patient abilities, needs, and preferences. To facilitate the process of setting up a personalized blended treatment, the Fit for Blended Care instrument can be used. By applying this approach in research and practice, more insight into the working mechanisms and optimal (personal) “blends” of online and face-to-face therapy becomes within reach.

  • Photo credit: rbbaird via FlickR / CC BY-NC.

    Efficacy of Adolescent Suicide Prevention E-Learning Modules for Gatekeepers: A Randomized Controlled Trial


    Background: Face-to-face gatekeeper training can be an effective strategy in the enhancement of gatekeepers’ knowledge and self-efficacy in adolescent suicide prevention. However, barriers related to access (eg, time, resources) may hamper participation in face-to-face training sessions. The transition to a Web-based setting could address obstacles associated with face-to-face gatekeeper training. Although Web-based suicide prevention training targeting adolescents exists, so far no randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been conducted to investigate their efficacy. Objective: This RCT study investigated the efficacy of a Web-based adolescent suicide prevention program entitled Mental Health Online, which aimed to improve the knowledge and self-confidence of gatekeepers working with adolescents (12-20 years old). The program consisted of 8 short e-learning modules each capturing an important aspect of the process of early recognition, guidance, and referral of suicidal adolescents, alongside additional information on the topic of (adolescent) suicide prevention. Methods: A total of 190 gatekeepers (ages 21 to 62 years) participated in this study and were randomized to either the experimental group or waitlist control group. The intervention was not masked. Participants from both groups completed 3 Web-based assessments (pretest, posttest, and 3-month follow-up). The outcome measures of this study were actual knowledge, and participants’ ratings of perceived knowledge and perceived self-confidence using questionnaires developed specifically for this study. Results: The actual knowledge, perceived knowledge, and perceived self-confidence of gatekeepers in the experimental group improved significantly compared to those in the waitlist control group at posttest, and the effects remained significant at 3-month follow-up. The overall effect sizes were 0.76, 1.20, and 1.02, respectively, across assessments. Conclusions: The findings of this study indicate that Web-based suicide prevention e-learning modules can be an effective educational method to enhance knowledge and self-confidence of gatekeepers with regard to adolescent suicide prevention. Gatekeepers with limited time and resources can benefit from the accessibility, simplicity, and flexibility of Web-based training. Trial Registration: Netherlands Trial Register NTR3625; (Archived by WebCite at

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  • Exploring the use of information and communication technology by people with mood disorder: A systematic review and meta-synthesis

    Date Submitted: May 10, 2016

    Open Peer Review Period: May 11, 2016 - Jul 6, 2016

    Background: There is a growing body of evidence relating to how information and communication technology can be used to support people with physical health conditions. Less in known regarding mental...

    Background: There is a growing body of evidence relating to how information and communication technology can be used to support people with physical health conditions. Less in known regarding mental health, and in particular, mood disorder. Objective: To conduct a meta-synthesis of all qualitative studies exploring the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) by people with mood disorder. Methods: Searches were run in eight electronic databases using a systematic search strategy. Qualitative and mixed-method studies published in English between 2007 and 2014 were included. Thematic synthesis was used to interpret and synthesis the results of the included studies. Results: Thirty-four studies were included in the synthesis. The methodological design of the studies were qualitative or mixed-methods. A global assessment of study quality identified 22 studies as strong and 12 weak with most having a typology of findings either at topical or thematic survey levels of data transformation. A typology of ICT use by people with mood disorder was created as a result of synthesis. Conclusions: The systematic review and meta-synthesis clearly identified a gap in the research literature regarding how people with mood disorder use mobile information and communication technology. Further qualitative research is recommended to understand the meaning this type of technology holds for people. Such research might provide valuable information on how people use mobile technology in their lives in general and also, more specifically, how they are being used to help with their mood disorders.