A digital intervention for adolescent depression (MoodHwb): Mixed methods feasibility evaluation

Rhys Bevan Jones, Anita Thapar, Frances Rice, Becky Mars, Sharifah Shameem Agha, Daniel Smith, Sally Merry, Paul Stallard, Ajay K. Thapar, Ian Jones, Sharon A. Simpson

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Background: Treatment and prevention guidelines highlight the key role of health information and evidence-based psychosocial interventions for adolescent depression. Digital health technologies and psychoeducational interventions have been recommended to help engage young people and to provide accurate health information, enhance self-management skills, and promote social support. However, few digital psychoeducational interventions for adolescent depression have been robustly developed and evaluated in line with research guidance. Objective: We aimed to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and potential impact of a theory-informed, co-designed digital intervention program, MoodHwb. Methods: We used a mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative) approach to evaluate the program and the assessment process. Adolescents with or at elevated risk of depression and their parents and carers were recruited from mental health services, school counselors and nurses, and participants from a previous study. They completed a range of questionnaires before and after the program (related to the feasibility and acceptability of the program and evaluation process, and changes in mood, knowledge, attitudes, and behavior), and their Web usage was monitored. A subsample was also interviewed. A focus group was conducted with professionals from health, education, social, and youth services and charities. Interview and focus group transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis with NVivo 10 (QSR International Pty Ltd). Results: A total of 44 young people and 31 parents or carers were recruited, of which 36 (82%) young people and 21 (68%) parents or carers completed follow-up questionnaires. In all, 19 young people and 12 parents or carers were interviewed. Overall, 13 professionals from a range of disciplines participated in the focus group. The key themes from the interviews and groups related to the design features, sections and content, and integration and context of the program in the young person's life. Overall, the participants found the intervention engaging, clear, user-friendly, and comprehensive, and stated that it could be integrated into existing services. Young people found the “Self help” section and “Mood monitor” particularly helpful. The findings provided initial support for the intervention program theory, for example, depression literacy improved after using the intervention (difference in mean literacy score: 1.7, 95% CI 0.8 to 2.6; P<.001 for young people; 1.3, 95% CI 0.4 to 2.2; P=.006 for parents and carers). Conclusions: Findings from this early stage evaluation suggest that MoodHwb and the assessment process were feasible and acceptable, and that the intervention has the potential to be helpful for young people, families and carers as an early intervention program in health, education, social, and youth services and charities. A randomized controlled trial is needed to further evaluate the digital program.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14536
JournalJMIR mental health
Issue number7
Early online date25 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2020


  • Adolescent
  • Depression
  • Early medical intervention
  • Education
  • Feasibility study
  • Internet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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