A smartphone application for treating depressive symptoms: Study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMC Psychiatry, 2018, 18 (1)
Issue Date:
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© 2018 The Author(s). Background: Depression is a commonly occurring disorder linked to diminished role functioning and quality of life. The development of treatments that overcome barriers to accessing treatment remains an important area of clinical research as most people delay or do not receive treatment at an appropriate time. The workplace is an ideal setting to roll-out an intervention, particularly given the substantial psychological benefits associated with remaining in the workforce. Mobile health (mhealth) interventions utilising smartphone applications (apps) offer novel solutions to disseminating evidence based programs, however few apps have undergone rigorous testing. The present study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a smartphone app designed to treat depressive symptoms in workers. Methods: The present study is a multicentre randomised controlled trial (RCT), comparing the effectiveness of the intervention to that of an attention control. The primary outcome measured will be reduced depressive symptoms at 3 months. Secondary outcomes such as wellbeing and work performance will also be measured. Employees from a range of industries will be recruited via a mixture of targeted social media advertising and Industry partners. Participants will be included if they present with likely current depression at baseline. Following baseline assessment (administered within the app), participants will be randomised to receive one of two versions of the Headgear application: 1) Intervention (a 30-day mental health intervention focusing on behavioural activation and mindfulness), or 2) attention control app (mood monitoring for 30 days). Participants will be blinded to their allocation. Analyses will be conducted within an intention to treat framework using mixed modelling. Discussion: The results of this trial will provide valuable information about the effectiveness of mhealth interventions in the treatment of depressive symptoms in a workplace context.
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