From role-play to situated feedback

re-envisioning child mental health promotion interventions with digital technology

The aims of the fellowship are to examine how emerging technologies can fundamentally re-envision the conceptual models and mechanisms-of-delivery for existing prevention interventions in the context of child mental health. Such an innovative approach is needed to address the unprecedented mental health treatment gap faced across the UK and worldwide: more than 1 in 10 children and young people have a clinically diagnosable mental health disorder, yet only 30% have had access to appropriate intervention, and less than half of these improve from the treatment. Mental health promotion interventions are seen as one of the principled ways of addressing these issues: by developing key protective factors (such as emotion regulation or parenting techniques) for both at-risk and general populations, such interventions can improve wellbeing and reduce the incidence of mental disorders. However, even the most effective programmes are still dependent on in-person delivery techniques and intervention mechanisms available since the 60s, thus lacking scalable mechanisms to support children in the everyday settings where protective competencies are needed, and being developed.

The core vision proposed by the fellowship research agenda is that digital technologies can lead to entirely new model of prevention interventions that are fully incorporated into the lives of target populations, thus addressing the need for situated learning support. However, beyond PI’s pilot work, HCI and Prevention Science fields lack even a basic understanding of the fundamental research questions necessary to deliver such situated interventions: it is not at all clear, for example, how to design technologies that provide useful contextualised support for children and their adults around protective competencies (technical RQs), how to do so in a psychologically effective way (psychological RQs), and how to design interventions that are engaging for users and are addressing their immediate needs (socio-technical RQs).

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