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Young adults’ perceptions of using wearables, social media and other technologies to detect worsening mental health: A qualitative study [2019]

Background
Technological interventions may help support and improve mental health. However young peoples’ perspectives on using different technologies to detect deteriorating mental health in those already diagnosed with a mental health condition is lacking. The study aim was to explore the perspectives of young patients on the feasibility and acceptability of using wearables, social media and technologies to detect mental health deterioration.

Methods
The study was co-produced with young adults with past mental health difficulties. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with young adults with a severe mental health condition in a private room at a community mental health site. Data was triangulated by comparing codes and ideas across the two co-researchers and two researchers over two virtual meetings. Themes were finalised and presented in a thematic map.

Results
Sixteen participants were interviewed (81% female). There were four main themes: dealing with mental health symptoms, signs of mental health deterioration, technology concerns and technological applications to identify worsening mental health. Wearables and mobile apps were considered acceptable and feasible to detect mental health deterioration in real-time if they could measure changes in sleep patterns, mood or activity levels as signs of deterioration. Getting help earlier was deemed essential particularly in reference to dissatisfaction with the current non-technological mental health services. However, patients identified issues to consider before implementation including practicality, safeguarding and patient preference.

Conclusion
Wearables and mobile apps could be viable technological options to help detect deterioration in young people in order to intervene early and avoid delay in accessing mental health services. However, immediate action following detection is required for the patient to trust and use the intervention.

Lindsay H. Dewa, Mary Lavelle, Katy Pickles, Caroline Kalorkoti, Jack Jaques, Sofia Pappa, Paul Aylin
PLOS ONE, September 18, 2019
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