Research projects

Improving the engagement detection and management of adolescent depression: Applying the mobile-type program to general practice settings

Principal Researchers

Dr Sophie Reida, Dr Lena Sancib, Professor George Pattona

Institution

a Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children’s Hospital 

b Department of General Practice, The University of Melbourne

Funding

$69,615

Award Type

beyondblue Victorian Centre of Excellence

Project completion year

2009

Project brief

The Mobile Tracking Young People’s Experiences (mobiletype) program was developed to assist with the monitoring, treatment and management of mental health for young people aged 14 to 24 years.  This world-first trial examined the effectiveness of the program in helping GPs to manage mental health problems in young people.

The study included 22 young people who were patients of two GPs in Bendigo, Victoria.  Each patient completed the mobiletype program four times a day for between two and four weeks, either selecting answers from a list of responses or texting answers to open-ended questions.  Data was compiled in individual feedback reports that included graphs and tables of negative mood, stresses, coping strategies, alcohol and cannabis use, exercise and eating patterns.  These were displayed on the mobiletype website and each participant reviewed this information with his or her doctor.

Key findings

Of the 22 participants, 21 completed feedback forms.  Of these, 19 rated the way the diaries captured their situation as “good” or “excellent”, 19 rated the way their feelings were captured as “good” or “excellent”, 14 rated the way their thoughts were captured as “good” or “excellent”, 20 said the captured information reflected their experiences, and 19 said the information was helpful or useful.

In addition, 18 participants said the information helped their doctors understand them better and 16 said it helped them understand themselves better.  Comments from participants suggested the program helped them to understand their moods better and consider helpful ways of coping with their moods.

Feedback from the GPs was also positive.  They said the program helped them understand the experiences of all patients in the trial.  Like their patients, the GPs felt the program accurately captured information about mood, stresses and experiences, and it helped their patients understand their own positions.  The GPs said the program was easy to use and a useful way of communicating with their patients.

Implications for policy, practice and further research

Findings suggest the mobiletype program can help young people understand and manage their own mental health symptoms and assist GPs to detect and manage youth mental health.  It may increase young people’s engagement in their healthcare, and lead to better relationships between young people and their GPs. 

The long-term aim is to provide all Australian GPs and young people with free or low-cost mobile-phone monitoring programs to engage young people in their healthcare, increase detection of mental health problems in general practice, and lead to better mental health outcomes.  This trial has led to funding for a large trial of 200 young Victorians, with more than a third from rural settings, in 2009-10.

Interest suggests the program would be well accepted if used across Australia. 

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