A mobile phone application for the assessment and management of youth mental health problems in primary care: a randomised controlled trial

BMC Fam Pract. 2011 Nov 29;12:131. doi: 10.1186/1471-2296-12-131.


Background: Over 75% of mental health problems begin in adolescence and primary care has been identified as the target setting for mental health intervention by the World Health Organisation. The mobiletype program is a mental health assessment and management mobile phone application which monitors mood, stress, coping strategies, activities, eating, sleeping, exercise patterns, and alcohol and cannabis use at least daily, and transmits this information to general practitioners (GPs) via a secure website in summary format for medical review.

Methods: We conducted a randomised controlled trial in primary care to examine the mental health benefits of the mobiletype program. Patients aged 14 to 24 years were recruited from rural and metropolitan general practices. GPs identified and referred eligible participants (those with mild or more mental health concerns) who were randomly assigned to either the intervention group (where mood, stress, and daily activities were monitored) or the attention comparison group (where only daily activities were monitored). Both groups self-monitored for 2 to 4 weeks and reviewed the monitoring data with their GP. GPs, participants, and researchers were blind to group allocation at randomisation. Participants completed pre-, post-, and 6-week post-test measures of the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale and an Emotional Self Awareness (ESA) Scale.

Results: Of the 163 participants assessed for eligibility, 118 were randomised and 114 participants were included in analyses (intervention group n = 68, comparison group n = 46). Mixed model analyses revealed a significant group by time interaction on ESA with a medium size of effect suggesting that the mobiletype program significantly increases ESA compared to an attention comparison. There was no significant group by time interaction for depression, anxiety, or stress, but a medium to large significant main effect for time for each of these mental health measures. Post-hoc analyses suggested that participation in the RCT lead to enhanced GP mental health care at pre-test and improved mental health outcomes.

Conclusions: Monitoring mental health symptoms appears to increase ESA and implementing a mental health program in primary care and providing frequent reminders, clinical resources, and support to GPs substantially improved mental health outcomes for the sample as a whole.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00794222.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cell Phone*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00794222