Remote mental health treatment for young people with depression

Remote mental health treatment for young people with depression
© iStock/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

A new, remote mental health treatment that helps young people suffering from anxiety and depression will now be made available on the NHS.

The online treatment, developed by researchers at the University of Exeter, has been proven to prevent anxiety and depression in young people in two clinical trials, and will now be made available on the NHS and health services worldwide.

The internet-delivered treatment is called ‘rumination-focussed cognitive behavioural therapy’ (RFCBT), and constructively helps young people to change their negative thoughts to action-oriented thoughts.

A new report has shown that many young people in Europe are reporting mental health concerns, much of which are likely to be exasperated by the COVID-19 lockdowns. Remote treatments such as this online mental health therapy are vital in addressing the health and mental health challenges compounded by the crisis.

RFCBT for depression

One study showed that the therapy was effective in reducing the onset of clinical depression and generalised anxiety disorder by half, and a second demonstrated the therapy reduced the onset of major depression by more than half.

The treatment has now been licensed to eHealth company Minddistrict, to be made available to health providers under the name MindReSolve.

Professor Ed Watkins, of the University of Exeter, said: “We know that worrying and overthinking are risk factors for poor mental health. High levels of worry and overthinking increase the risk of developing depression and anxiety disorders, especially in young people. Worry is also likely to be elevated due to the uncertainties arising from COVID-19.

“However, from our lab research, we know that it is possible to shift people from unhelpful worry into more useful problem-solving. We have built these techniques into the online treatment.

“Our research has shown that online RFCBT is effective. We now hope this evidence-based treatment will become more widely available to patients via the Minddistrict platform.”

Remote treatment

The treatment is aimed at young people aged 15 and older and is to be used alongside the support of a mental health professional.

Professor Watkins added: “The goal is for the client to learn about the patterns of their worry, rumination and overthinking and to find ways to tackle them – as a means to reduce and prevent stress, anxiety and depression.

“The client learns about the warning signs for worry and rumination, and useful helpful alternative behaviours to disrupt worry and rumination. In addition, the client learns how to shift from unhelpful to helpful thinking when faced with difficulties and problems.

“All six sessions include psycho-education, questionnaires to help the client to reflect on the ideas raised, videos to watch and audio-recorded exercises to practice such as relaxation, compassion, absorption and being more specific.”

The licensing of this intervention to Minddistrict was supported by Tori Hammond in the research commercialisation team in Innovation, Impact and Business at the University of Exeter.

Eva Papadopoulou, Business Lead UK at Minddistrict, said: “We are delighted to have had the opportunity to collaborate with the University of Exeter on their MindResolve module, which has seen excellent results during its randomised controlled trial.

“We’re excited to have this module as part of the Minddistrict catalogue of online interventions and are looking forward to helping both our existing customers and potential partners with getting the most out of this module for their clients.”

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  1. I have always been confused between what is depression and what is anxiety. Nice post. But I would appreciate if the author would kindly point me to some important articles to help me understand the difference better. Thanks in advance!


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