Workplace stress-reduction interventions have produced mixed results due to engagement and adherence barriers. Leveraging technology to integrate such interventions into the workday may address these barriers and help mitigate the mental, physical, and monetary effects of workplace stress. To inform the design of a workplace stress-reduction intervention system, we conducted a four-week longitudinal study with 86 participants, examining the effects of intervention type and timing on usage, stress reduction impact, and user preferences. We compared three intervention types and two delivery timing conditions: Pre-scheduled (PS) by users and Just-in-time (JIT) prompted by the system-identified user stress-levels. We found JIT participants completed significantly more interventions than PS participants, but post-intervention and study-long stress reduction was not significantly different between conditions. Participants rated low-effort interventions highest, but high-effort interventions reduced the most stress. Participants felt JIT provided accountability but desired partial agency over timing. We present type and timing implications.
Young adults have high rates of mental health conditions, yet they are the age group least likely to seek traditional treatment. They do, however, seek information about their mental health online, including by filling out online mental health screeners. To better understand online self-screening, and its role in help-seeking, we conducted focus groups with 50 young adults who voluntarily completed a mental health screener hosted on an advocacy website. We explored (1) catalysts for taking the screener, (2) anticipated outcomes, (3) reactions to the results, and (4) desired next steps. For many participants, the screener results validated their lived experiences of symptoms, but they were nevertheless unsure how to use the information to improve their mental health moving forward. Our findings suggest that online screeners can serve as a transition point in young people's mental health journeys. We discuss design implications for online screeners, post-screener feedback, and digital interventions broadly.
Young adults have high rates of mental health conditions, but most do not want or cannot access formal treatment. We therefore recruited young adults with depression or anxiety symptoms to co-design a digital tool for self-managing their mental health concerns. Through study activities---consisting of an online discussion group and a series of design workshops---participants highlighted the importance of easy-to-use digital tools that allow them to exercise independence in their self-management. They described ways that an automated messaging tool might benefit them by: facilitating experimentation with diverse concepts and experiences; allowing variable depth of engagement based on preferences, availability, and mood; and collecting feedback to personalize the tool. While participants wanted to feel supported by an automated tool, they cautioned against incorporating an overtly human-like motivational tone. We discuss ways to apply these findings to improve the design and dissemination of digital mental health tools for young adults.
Amidst increasing reports of mental health problems in Canadian university students, those of Asian descent have particularly struggled to seek out services due to cultural barriers. Counselling practices have long noted that culture influences how mental health is perceived and treated, yet the design of mental health technologies is limited with respect to how users’ backgrounds influence usability and adoption. To identify inclusive design opportunities, we interviewed 20 East Asian university students in Canada. We found that they struggle to engage with technologies for mental health due to cultural stigma which have led them to prefer apps that support self-help though still valuing social help. We present inclusive design opportunities for mental health technologies that sensitively consider these challenges, including supporting learning opportunities with peers through storytelling and skill-sharing to promote literacy, empowerment, and advocacy for their own health. We conclude by discussing how universities can promote mental wellbeing more inclusively.
The ability to manage emotions effectively is critical to healthy psychological and social development in youth. Prior work has focused on investigating the design of mental health technologies for this population, yet it is still unclear how to help them cope with emotionally difficult situations in-the-moment. In this paper, we aim to explore the appropriation, naturally emerging engagement patterns, and perceived psychological impact of an exemplar interactive tangible device intervention designed to provide in-situ support, when deployed with n=109 youth for 1.5 months. Our findings from semi-structured interviews and co-design workshops with a subset of participants (n=44 and n=25, respectively) suggest the potential of using technology-enabled objects to aid with down-regulation and self-compassion in moments of heightened emotion, to facilitate the practice of cognitive strategies, and to act as emotional companions. Lastly, we discuss design opportunities for integrating situated and embodied support in mental health interventions for youth.