OBJECTIVES: This systematic review aims to examine the effectiveness of online mental health interventions for youth.
METHODS: We searched seven electronic databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, Medline, Embase, CINAHL, Web of Science and SCOPUS) for the past 10 years to identify randomized controlled trials which have evaluated the use of telehealth interventions for young people with mental health problems. The included studies were assessed for quality and risk of bias.
RESULTS: Forty-five randomized controlled trials (n = 13,291 participants) were eligible for this review. Most studies (35 trials) evaluated the use of web-based self-help platforms to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy (14 trials), mindfulness (four trials), acceptance commitment therapy (five trials) and positive psychology (two trials). Mobile/computer applications were used to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy (four trials) and coping strategies training (two trials). Web-based synchronous chat (one trial) was used to assist communication between counsellors and participants. Three studies used artificial intelligence-based conversational agents to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy (two trials) and problem-solving-strategy training (one trial). Eighty-two percent (n = 37) identified the participants as student population (i.e. university students, high school students). Sixty-four percent (n = 29) of the telehealth interventions were found to be effective in managing depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia and improving quality of life when compared with control conditions.
CONCLUSIONS: Online mental health interventions were found to be effective in managing diverse mental health conditions among youth. Online self-help platforms were the most frequently used modality and artificial intelligence-based chatbots are merging as potential solutions. Future research is warranted to investigate the solutions to improve the retention rate and satisfaction of telehealth interventions among this population.
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