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Distrust of apps putting young people off mental health support

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Young people

A lack of trust in mental health apps may be preventing young people from receiving the support they need, findings from a new study suggest.

Questions about the effectiveness of apps or other digital resources in managing mental health are also preventing young people from engaging with them, experts said.

If concerns around trust and usefulness of these technologies could be addressed, young people might be more likely to use them to help manage problems like stress, anxiety and low mood, the researchers argued.

Dr Vilas Sawrikar, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Health in Social Science, said:

“Digital interventions only present a viable solution for young people if they are trusted and considered useful by those who need them.”

Around one in five people aged 17 to 24 years struggle with their mental health and digital health tools are increasingly being presented as a convenient and accessible solution.

Services available include mindfulness and meditation apps, screening apps – which aim to determine your mood via an online questionnaire – and online therapy apps.

However, the uptake among young people is low.

The recent University of Edinburgh study is the first to evaluate what motivates them to engage with these resources,

Researchers quizzed 248 young people aged 17 to 25 and used statistical models to assess their attitudes to the technologies, what they take into account before using them, and their previous engagement with them.

Participants were found to be relatively neutral towards the idea of digital mental health interventions.

If the participants perceived the technology as trustworthy and useful, researchers found there was a small to moderate positive association with higher intentions to use a resource.

Perceived ease of use and mental health need was not found to make a notable difference in young peoples’ intentions to use a resource, the researchers found.

Overall, researchers only found moderate levels of acceptance for mental health technologies based on the group’s experiences and perceptions, which they say may represent a barrier in wider uptake of the services among young people.

Researchers hope the findings will help shape the development of digital mental health tools to address the challenges in youth mental health.

Dr Sawrikar added:

“These findings suggest there should be a focus on developing trustworthy digital health interventions with evidence about usefulness and effectiveness to improve uptake among young people.”

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