New programme will assess how digital therapies can help treat anxiety and depression

NICE is to start assessing new digital therapies that will help treat more people with anxiety and depression.


Guided self-help, which can track people’s mood or advise on breathing exercises for example, is recommended by NICE guidance to help treat mild to moderate anxiety and depression.

As part of NHS England’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, NICE has been asked to assess digital applications or computer programmes, which will sit alongside face-to-face, phone and online therapy.

Developers of therapy applications are being invited to submit their product to NICE to see if it meets the criteria to be entered into the new programme. An eligible product will be assessed by NICE for its content, how effective it is at treating anxiety and depression, how cost effective it is and whether it complies with technical NHS standards. NICE will then produce an IAPT assessment briefing (IAB) on the product which will be looked at by an expert panel, made up of mental health clinicians, statisticians, an economist and a patient representative. They will look at NICE’s briefing and make a decision on whether the product can be recommended for real-life testing in selected IAPT services, where further evidence can be collected on its effectiveness.

Over the next two years, NICE’s expert panel will review data from this evaluation in practice and decide if the digital therapy should be adopted for use across the whole of NHS England’s IAPT service. Funding will also be made available from NHS England for digital therapies that are identified by the expert panel as promising, but need further development.


Using a humanoid robot to improve the social skills of children with autism spectrum disorder – Protocol

Interventions using robot-assisted therapy may be beneficial for the social skills development of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are lacking | BMJ Open


Introduction: The present research aims to assess the feasibility of conducting an RCT evaluating the effectiveness of a social skills intervention using Kinesics and Synchronisation in Personal Assistant Robotics (Kaspar) with children with ASD.

Methods and analysis: Forty children will be recruited. Inclusion criteria are the following: aged 5–10 years, confirmed ASD diagnosis, IQ over 70, English-language comprehension, a carer who can complete questionnaires in English and no current participation in a private social communication intervention. Children will be randomised to receive an intervention with a therapist and Kaspar, or with the therapist only. They will receive two familiarisation sessions and six treatment sessions for 8 weeks. They will be assessed at baseline, and at 10 and 22 weeks after baseline. The primary outcome of this study is to evaluate whether the predetermined feasibility criteria for a full-scale trial are met. The potential primary outcome measures for a full-scale trial are the Social Communication Questionnaire and the Social Skills Improvement System. We will conduct a preliminary economic analysis. After the study has ended, a sample of 20 participants and their families will be invited to participate in semistructured interviews to explore the feasibility and acceptability of the study’s methods and intervention.

Full reference: Mengoni, S.E. et al. (2017) Feasibility study of a randomised controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of using a humanoid robot to improve the social skills of children with autism spectrum disorder (Kaspar RCT): a study protocol. BMJ Open. 7:e017376.

How to find a good app for mental health

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


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

YoungMinds ‘Online Pressures’ Campaign

1. Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is an issue which is becoming far too common these days. I suffered from bullying my entire life although specifically cyberbullying when I started to use social media platforms such as MSN, Bebo, MySpace from as young as 12yrs old. As a result I suffered from severe anxiety and severe depression. According to a joint study done by professors of the University of Oxford, University of Bristol, University of Warwick and UCL, young people who are bullied are twice as likely to experience a mental health problem in later life as a result

Read the full blog post here

2. Reaching Out

As part of the YoungMinds Vs Online pressures campaign, they are sharing a film made by BA students of the Met Film School for YoungMinds, which highlights the effects of cyberbullying but also a positive way to help your friends by reaching out to them online.

This short film depicts a young person struggling with the pressures of being connected to the online world through personified notifications.

Read the full blog post here

3. #LifeOnTheWeb Cartoon Competition 


Image source: Fiona Glazebrook – YoungMinds.

View all the winners and other competitions here

Building digital resilience

YoungMinds is calling for a new approach to ensure that the online world does not damage young people’s mental health.

Resilience for the Digital World’ is the report produced by YoungMinds and research and consultation company Ecorys calling for more focus to given to building young people’s digital resilience.

Digital resilience is defined as  the ability for young people to respond positively and deal with risks they encounter online – rather than focusing solely on protecting them from risky content.

The report, which consists of an Evidence Review and a Positioning Paper, recommends:

  • Every school should think through and take action on how they help children develop digital resilience and embed this in their Ofsted-inspected E-safety curriculum.
  • Young people should have engaging, accessible and age-appropriate information about mental health on the sites and apps that they use, so they can help themselves and each other if they are struggling.
  • Industry needs to take on their responsibilities to support young people who may be struggling with the effects of social media addiction – for example, by providing pop-ups signposting to resources and support.
  • Teachers, social workers and professionals working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services should be skilled up to understand young people’s experience of the online world and how to help them to build their digital resilience.

Digital Risk and Resilience Resources

image source: uditha wickramanayaka – Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

These Digital Risk resources have been developed as a hub of information and support for all professionals who work with children and young people.

The content has been co-produced by Xenzone and young people from their online counselling and support service,

For further information and learning on this topic, come and try our e-learning session on digital risk and resilience



Young people’s usage of online platforms has drastically increased. By 2010, the vast majority of 9-16 year olds in the UK (96%) reported going online at least weekly. At YoungMinds we offer training opportunities which support you to support the young people you work with, by understanding their digital lives.


In a report published last year for Safer Internet Day 2015, 55% of 11- 16 year olds said they use technology to interact with their closest friends several times an hour. Sixty per cent said they’d be lonely if they couldn’t talk to friends via technology.

As Resilience for a Digital World reports, the membership of social networking sites has also seen a sharp increase over the same period, with two thirds of 9-16 year internet users holding at least one account; rising to 92% of 15-16 year olds.

These statistics are dramatic, with social media presenting perhaps the single greatest influence on the social lives of young people.


Image source: byung chul kim


With new opportunities, come new risks. Significantly, the majority of young people involved in the survey said they’ve occasionally experienced someone being mean to them (51%) or their friend (59%) online.

Last year’s ChildLine report revealed an 87% increase in counselling about online bullying over the past three years

And as Jessica’s blog for us shows, these incidences of cyberbullying can have severely negative, sustained impacts on the mental health of young people.


As well as publishing the report, YoungMinds has already run a successful online campaign called #MatesMatter, to grow awareness among young people of how they can look out for their friends online.

However, how can we – as professionals, parents and carers who work with young people – ensure that we continue to provide relevant support in an increasingly digital age?


YoungMinds’ training course on Teens, Technology and Mental Health has been created to improve your understanding of the impact of technology on mental health, helping you to learn the best techniques for supporting the young people you work with and how to support a resilience building approach to use of technology and the internet.


This interactive course challenges perceptions of social media use, and offers opportunities to explore the positive impact that this may have on mental health, as well as potential detrimental effects.

Participants will have the opportunity to explore social media, films, websites and apps to further their understanding of technology, young people and mental health.


  • Different technologies and how young people use them
  • Risks and benefits to emotional well-being including on-line safety and on-line support
  • Useful websites supporting mental health
  • Bullying, cyber-bullying and how to develop positive anti-cyberbullying policies and practice
  • The resilience framework and technology- using technology to promote resilience in young people
  • Tools which you can use to address the risks and increase the benefits of technology for young people.

Read the full blog post here