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      Recruitment of Participants and Delivery of Online Mental Health Resources for Depressed Individuals Using Tumblr: Pilot Randomized Control Trial

      , BS 1 , , , MD, MPH, MSEd 1 , 2 , , BA 1
      (Reviewer), (Reviewer), (Reviewer)
      JMIR Research Protocols
      JMIR Publications
      adolescents, depression, intervention, social media, tumblr

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          Adolescents and young adults frequently post depression symptom references on social media; previous studies show positive associations between depression posts and self-reported depression symptoms. Depression is common among young people and this population often experiences many barriers to mental health care. Thus, social media may be a new resource to identify, recruit, and intervene with young people at risk for depression.


          The purpose of this pilot study was to test a social media intervention on Tumblr. We used social media to identify and recruit participants and to deliver the intervention of online depression resources.


          This randomized pilot intervention identified Tumblr users age 15-23 who posted about depression using the search term “#depress”. Eligible participants were recruited via Tumblr messages; consented participants completed depression surveys and were then randomized to an intervention of online mental health resources delivered via a Tumblr message, while control participants did not receive resources. Postintervention online surveys assessed resource access and usefulness and control groups were asked whether they would have liked to receive resources. Analyses included t tests.


          A total of 25 participants met eligibility criteria. The mean age of the participants was 17.5 (SD 1.9) and 65% were female with average score on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 of 17.5 (SD 5.9). Among the 11 intervention participants, 36% (4/11) reported accessing intervention resources and 64% (7/11) felt the intervention was acceptable. Among the 14 control participants, only 29% (4/14) of reported that receiving resources online would be acceptable ( P=.02). Participants suggested anonymity and ease of use as important characteristics in an online depression resource.


          The intervention was appropriately targeted to young people at risk for depression, and recruitment via Tumblr was feasible. Most participants in the intervention group felt the social media approach was acceptable, and about a third utilized the online resources. Participants who had not experienced the intervention were less likely to find it acceptable. Future studies should explore this approach in larger samples. Social media may be an appropriate platform for online depression interventions for young people.

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          Most cited references15

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          Stigma and help seeking for mental health among college students.

          Mental illness stigma has been identified by national policy makers as an important barrier to help seeking for mental health. Using a random sample of 5,555 students from a diverse set of 13 universities, we conducted one of the first empirical studies of the association of help-seeking behavior with both perceived public stigma and people's own stigmatizing attitudes (personal stigma). There were three main findings: (a) Perceived public stigma was considerably higher than personal stigma; (b) personal stigma was higher among students with any of the following characteristics: male, younger, Asian, international, more religious, or from a poor family; and (c) personal stigma was significantly and negatively associated with measures of help seeking (perceived need and use of psychotropic medication, therapy, and nonclinical sources of support), whereas perceived stigma was not significantly associated with help seeking. These findings can help inform efforts to reduce the role of stigma as a barrier to help seeking.
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            Evaluation of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 Item for detecting major depression among adolescents.

            The purpose of this study was to examine the performance characteristics and validity of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 Item (PHQ-9) as a screening tool for depression among adolescents. The PHQ-9 was completed by 442 youth (aged 13-17 years) who were enrolled in a large health care-delivery system and participated in a study on depression outcomes. Criterion validity and performance characteristics were assessed against an independent structured mental health interview (the Child Diagnostic Interview Schedule [DISC-IV]). Construct validity was tested by examining associations between the PHQ-9 and a self-report measure of functional impairment, as well as parental reports of child psychosocial impairment and internalizing symptoms. A PHQ-9 score of 11 or more had a sensitivity of 89.5% and a specificity of 77.5% for detecting youth who met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition criteria for major depression on the DISC-IV. Receiver-operator-curve analysis revealed that the PHQ-9 had an area under the curve of 0.88 (95% confidence interval: 0.82-0.94), and the cut point of 11 was optimal for maximizing sensitivity without loss of specificity. Increasing PHQ-9 scores were significantly correlated with increasing levels of functional impairment, as well as parental report of internalizing symptoms and psychosocial problems. Although the optimal cut point is higher among adolescents, the sensitivity and specificity of the PHQ-9 are similar to those of adult populations. The brief nature and ease of scoring of this instrument make this tool an excellent choice for providers and researchers seeking to implement depression screening in primary care settings.
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              Feeling bad on Facebook: depression disclosures by college students on a social networking site.

              Depression is common and frequently undiagnosed among college students. Social networking sites are popular among college students and can include displayed depression references. The purpose of this study was to evaluate college students' Facebook disclosures that met DSM criteria for a depression symptom or a major depressive episode (MDE). We selected public Facebook profiles from sophomore and junior undergraduates and evaluated personally written text: "status updates." We applied DSM criteria to 1-year status updates from each profile to determine prevalence of displayed depression symptoms and MDE criteria. Negative binomial regression analysis was used to model the association between depression disclosures and demographics or Facebook use characteristics. Two hundred profiles were evaluated, and profile owners were 43.5% female with a mean age of 20 years. Overall, 25% of profiles displayed depressive symptoms and 2.5% met criteria for MDE. Profile owners were more likely to reference depression, if they averaged at least one online response from their friends to a status update disclosing depressive symptoms (exp(B) = 2.1, P <.001), or if they used Facebook more frequently (P <.001). College students commonly display symptoms consistent with depression on Facebook. Our findings suggest that those who receive online reinforcement from their friends are more likely to discuss their depressive symptoms publicly on Facebook. Given the frequency of depression symptom displays on public profiles, social networking sites could be an innovative avenue for combating stigma surrounding mental health conditions or for identifying students at risk for depression. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

                Author and article information

                JMIR Res Protoc
                JMIR Res Protoc
                JMIR Research Protocols
                JMIR Publications (Toronto, Canada )
                April 2018
                12 April 2018
                : 7
                : 4
                : e95
                [1] 1 Seattle Children's Research Institute Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development Seattle, WA United States
                [2] 2 University of Washington Seattle, WA United States
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Erin Kelleher erin.kelleher6@ 123456gmail.com
                Author information
                ©Erin Kelleher, Megan Moreno, Megan Pumper Wilt. Originally published in JMIR Research Protocols (http://www.researchprotocols.org), 12.04.2018.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Research Protocols, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.researchprotocols.org, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

                : 14 November 2017
                : 13 December 2017
                : 27 February 2018
                : 28 February 2018
                Original Paper
                Original Paper

                adolescents,depression,intervention,social media,tumblr
                adolescents, depression, intervention, social media, tumblr


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