Impact of mental health screening on promoting immediate online help-seeking: Randomized trial comparing normative versus humor-driven feedback

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2018, 20 (4)
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© Isabella Choi, David N Milne, Mark Deady, Rafael A Calvo, Samuel B Harvey, Nick Glozier. Background: Given the widespread availability of mental health screening apps, providing personalized feedback may encourage people at high risk to seek help to manage their symptoms. While apps typically provide personal score feedback only, feedback types that are user-friendly and increase personal relevance may encourage further help-seeking. Objective: The aim of this study was to compare the effects of providing normative and humor-driven feedback on immediate online help-seeking, defined as clicking on a link to an external resource, and to explore demographic predictors that encourage help-seeking. Methods: An online sample of 549 adults were recruited using social media advertisements. Participants downloaded a smartphone app known as “Mindgauge” which allowed them to screen their mental wellbeing by completing standardized measures on Symptoms (Kessler 6-item Scale), Wellbeing (World Health Organization [Five] Wellbeing Index), and Resilience (Brief Resilience Scale). Participants were randomized to receive normative feedback that compared their scores to a reference group or humor-driven feedback that presented their scores in a relaxed manner. Those who scored in the moderate or poor ranges in any measure were encouraged to seek help by clicking on a link to an external online resource. Results: A total of 318 participants scored poorly on one or more measures and were provided with an external link after being randomized to receive normative or humor-driven feedback. There was no significant difference of feedback type on clicking on the external link across all measures. A larger proportion of participants from the Wellbeing measure (170/274, 62.0%) clicked on the links than the Resilience (47/179, 26.3%) or Symptoms (26/75, 34.7%) measures (?2=60.35, P<.001). There were no significant demographic factors associated with help-seeking for the Resilience or Wellbeing measures. Participants with a previous episode of poor mental health were less likely than those without such history to click on the external link in the Symptoms measure (P=.003, odds ratio [OR] 0.83, 95% CI 0.02-0.44), and younger adults were less likely to click on the link compared to older adults across all measures (P=.005, OR 0.44, 95% CI 0.25-0.78). Conclusions: This pilot study found that there was no difference between normative and humor-driven feedback on promoting immediate clicks to an external resource, suggesting no impact on online help-seeking. Limitations included: lack of personal score control group, limited measures of predictors and potential confounders, and the fact that other forms of professional help-seeking were not assessed. Further investigation into other predictors and factors that impact on help-seeking is needed.
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