Digital Mental Health Intervention Uptake Among Distressed New Zealand High School Students in a Comprehensive Survey: Implications for Digital Help Provision
Background: High rates of mental distress are reported among adolescents. Emerging evidence suggests that digital mental health interventions, such as computerised psychotherapy, informative websites, and non-clinical helplines, may help. However, it is unclear whether these resources are reaching those who experience distress in real-world settings.
Aim: The aim of this research is to explore adolescent uptake of digital mental health interventions offered via a comprehensive youth health survey, with a particular focus on adolescents experiencing probable mental distress.
Methods: Data were drawn from the Youth19 Rangatahi Smart Survey. At the end of the survey participants were provided the opportunity to opt-in to receive digital health resources. Participants’ opt-in and access to these digital health resources, as well as if they accessed the specific mental health resources, was remotely monitored. We compare opt-in and access among participants with and without probable mental distress.
Results: Of those who completed the Youth19 survey (n = 7721), a substantial minority of participants opted-in to receive the digital health resources (n = 1720). However, of those who opted-in, access was low (n = 187). Participants with probable mental distress were more likely than their non-distressed counterparts to opt-in and access the digital health resources, although these differences were small. Importantly, only seven participants went on to access digital
mental health interventions.
Discussion: The moderate number of participants to opt-in to receive Youth19 digital health resources suggests that digital resources may be a valuable component of supporting diverse groups of adolescents. The high attrition, however, indicates that adolescents may be experiencing barriers to accessing these interventions. Smart design to increase appeal, addressing barriers that limit access, and providing multiple options for different groups could
increase adolescents’ engagement with digital mental health interventions.