Feasibility of a UK community-based, eTherapy mental health service in Greater Manchester

There is increasing evidence to support the effectiveness of eTherapies for mental health, although limited data have been reported from community-based services | BMJ Open

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Results: Data indicated baseline differences, with the Breaking Free Online group having higher scores for depression and anxiety than the Living Life to the Full Interactive and Sleepio  groups. Promising improvements in mental health scores were found within all three groups, as were significant reductions in numbers of service users reaching clinical threshold scores for mental health difficulties. Number of days of engagement was not related to change from baseline for the Living Life to the Full or Sleepio programmes but was associated with degree of change for Breaking Free Online.

Conclusion: Data presented provide evidence for feasibility of this eTherapy delivery model in supporting service users with a range of mental health difficulties and suggest that eTherapies may be a useful addition to treatment offering in community-based services.

Full reference: Elison, S. et al. (2017) Feasibility of a UK community-based, eTherapy mental health service in Greater Manchester: repeated-measures and between-groups study of ‘Living Life to the Full Interactive’, ‘Sleepio’ and ‘Breaking Free Online’ at ‘Self Help Services’. BMJ Open. 7:e016392

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Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world

Position statement from the Canadian Paediatric Society

https://www.flickr.com/photos/zionfiction/14229339157/

Image source: r. nial bradshaw – Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The digital landscape is evolving more quickly than research on the effects of screen media on the development, learning and family life of young children. This statement examines the potential benefits and risks of screen media in children under 5 years old, focusing on developmental, psychosocial and physical health. Evidence-based guidance to optimize and support children’s early media experiences involves four principles: minimizing, mitigating, mindfully using and modelling healthy use of screens. Knowing how young children learn and develop informs best practice strategies for health care providers.

Read the full statement here

Digital dating abuse especially bad for girls

Teens expect to experience some digital forms of abuse in dating, but girls may be suffering more severe emotional consequences than boys, according to a new study | ScienceDaily

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Researchers at the University of Michigan and University of California-Santa Barbara examined the impact of gender on high schoolers’ experience of digital dating abuse behaviors, which include use of cell phones or internet to harass, control, pressure or threaten a dating partner.

Overall, teens experience this digital dating abuse at similar rates, but girls reported that they were more upset by these behaviors and reported more negative emotional responses.

The survey asked teens to indicate the frequency of experiencing several problematic digital behaviors with a dating partner, including “pressured me to sext” (sending a sexual or naked photo), sent a threatening message, looked at private information to check up on me without permission, and monitored whereabouts and activities.

Girls indicated more frequent digital sexual coercion victimization, and girls and boys reported equal rates of digital monitoring and control, and digital direct aggression. When confronted with direct aggression, such as threats and rumor spreading, girls responded by blocking communication with their partner. Boys responded in similar fashion when they experienced digital monitoring and control behaviors, the study showed.

Boys often treat girls as sexual objects, which contributes to the higher rates of digital sexual coercion, as boys may feel entitled to have sexual power over girls, said study co-author Richard Tolman, U-M professor of social work.

Girls, on the other hand, are expected to prioritize relationships, which can lead to more jealousy and possessiveness, he said. Thus, they may be more likely to monitor boys’ activities.

Digital technology and adolescent conduct problems

Adolescents spend an unprecedented amount of time using digital technology to access the Internet and engage with social media. There is concern that this continuous connectivity could increase their mental health symptoms, especially for at-risk adolescents. | Journal of Pediatric Nursing

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A new US study has reported that on days that at-risk adolescents used technology more, they experienced more conduct problems and higher attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms compared to days when they used digital technologies less.

However, the study also found that on days when adolescents spent more time using digital technologies they were less likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Key findings:

•Daily digital technology use by at-risk adolescents is associated with worse mental health symptoms.
•Higher levels of digital technology use were associated with increases in next-day conduct problems.
•Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms increased with increased digital technology use.
•When adolescents spent more time using digital technologies they reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Full reference: McBride, Deborah L. Daily Digital Technology Use Linked to Mental Health Symptoms for High-risk Adolescents. Journal of Pediatric Nursing: Nursing Care of Children and Families. Published online 7th June 2017

Ethics of digital technology for mental health

The potential of digital technology to make the lives of people with mental health difficulties better has never been greater | The Mental Elf

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The advent of the smartphone and mobile internet access has created the conditions for an ever-expanding range of opportunities for the use of technology to influence outcomes in health. However, ethical considerations remain for professionals in suggesting the use of such technologies.

Bauer et al.’s (2017) open access paper Ethical perspectives on recommending digital technology for patients with mental illness reviews some of the major ethical concerns presented to medical professionals by this explosion of technological possibilities and explores some of the ways in which new technologies challenge the boundaries between health, commerce and the private and public uses of data.

Read the full blog post here

Meeting the Needs of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth: Formative Research on Potential Digital Health Interventions

Steinke, J. et al. Journal of Adolescent Health. Published online: January 17 2017

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Purpose: Sexual and gender minority youth (SGMY) have unique risk factors and worse health outcomes than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. SGMY’s significant online activity represents an opportunity for digital interventions. To help meet the sex education and health needs of SGMY and to understand what they consider important, formative research was conducted to guide and inform the development of new digital health interventions.

 

Conclusions: Any digital intervention for SGMY should focus on mental health and well-being holistically rather than solely on risk behaviors, such as preventing HIV. Interventions should include opportunities for interpersonal connection, foster a sense of belonging, and provide accurate information about sexuality and gender to help facilitate positive identity development. Content and delivery of digital interventions should appeal to diverse sexualities, genders, and other intersecting identities held by SGMY to avoid further alienation.

Read the full article here

How to find a good app for mental health

Bakke, D & Rickard, N. The Conversation. Published online: November 6 2016

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Mental health apps don’t promise to be a replacement for professional help, but can be useful tools in the treatment of subclinical problems (such as everyday anxious feelings and low moods) and the prevention of clinical problems (such as depression and anxiety disorders). Some psychologists or mental health clinicians use apps in addition to the work they do with clients and patients.

So before you set out to navigate the quagmire of available mental health apps, what should you keep in mind?

  1. Does it use evidence-based techniques?
  2. Does it address more than one symptom or issue?
  3. Do you tell the app how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, or what you’re doing?
  4. Does the app recommend activities that are non-technology-based and linked to the problems you’ve reported?
  5. Can you use the app in real time, as you’re experiencing distress?
  6. Is there good experimental evidence to show the app’s effectiveness?
  7. Do you like it?

Read more about the full list of recommendations here