Digital Interventions Show Promise in Engaging Teens in Mental Health Care

Digital apps are emerging as valuable tools to engage teens in mental health care, complementing professional treatment and promoting overall wellness. Innovative programs are also addressing the impact of excessive screen time on teen mental health.

Wojciech Zylm
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Digital Interventions Show Promise in Engaging Teens in Mental Health Care

Digital Interventions Show Promise in Engaging Teens in Mental Health Care

Digital applications and interventions are emerging as valuable tools to help engage teenagers in mental health care, offering convenient access to evidence-based techniques and support. While not meant to replace professional treatment, these apps can complement therapy by providing activities and resources to manage stress, recognize thought patterns, and promote overall mental wellness.

A range of mental health apps, such as Daylio, Talkspace, Headspace, notOK, iBreathe, MindShift CBT, I Am Sober, Happify, and Recovery Record, target various needs from mood tracking and guided meditation to tools for managing anxiety, OCD, and eating disorders. These digital interventions offer teenagers a more accessible and engaging way to participate in their mental health care.

Why this matters: With the increasing prevalence of mental health challenges among adolescents, finding effective ways to involve them in treatment is vital. Digital apps and interventions show potential to bridge the gap by providing accessible, appealing tools that complement professional care.

The University of Michigan has launched an innovative interprofessional Peer-to-Peer Digital Wellness class to address the mental health impact of excessive screen time and problematic digital practices on teenagers. The collaborative program, involving U-M students mentoring sixth graders, focuses on educating students about the benefits and harms of digital device use and providing strategies for developing healthy digital habits.

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is also taking steps to support student mental health. In partnership with various organizations, SDCOE is hosting the 4th Annual Mind Out Loud virtual event on May 1, 2024, connecting middle and high school students from across California, the U.S., and the world to discuss mental health, wellness, and suicide prevention.

In the field of digital mental health treatments, GrayMatters Health (GMH) has received recognition for its FDA-cleared device Prism for PTSD. Named a Gold winner of the 2024 Edison Awards, Prism is the first prescribed self-neuromodulation device cleared by the FDA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. In a clinical trial, 67% of patients showed clinically meaningful symptom improvement, and 32% achieved remission three months after completing the Prism treatment.

As digital interventions continue to progress, it is essential to approach them as part of a comprehensive mental health strategy that includes professional support when needed. "These apps are not meant to substitute professional care, but can complement therapy and counseling by providing convenient access to evidence-based techniques," experts emphasize. By leveraging technology to involve teenagers in mental health care, we can work towards improving access, outcomes, and overall well-being for this vulnerable population.

Key Takeaways

  • Digital mental health apps can complement professional therapy for teens.
  • U-M's Digital Wellness class educates teens on healthy digital habits.
  • SDCOE hosts virtual event connecting students to discuss mental health.
  • FDA-cleared Prism device shows promise in treating PTSD symptoms.
  • Digital interventions should be part of a comprehensive mental health strategy.