Mental health campaign aims to build teen resilience during COVID-19
Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago have been studying ways to prevent depression among teens for years, thanks to major funding from organizations like the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, or PCORI. Now they are expanding their work to include a public health campaign to build resilience among youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The mental health campaign – called the Path 2 Purpose, or P2P, Campaign – aims to reach teens ages 13-18 who are struggling with depression or anxiety and provide education on how to manage stress and beat the blues with mindfulness, stress-reduction, and relationship-building skills online. Drawing on two decades of research into adolescent depression, P2P uses digital media, toolkits, blog posts, and even comic books to help teens cope during the COVID crisis.
“We are seeing increases in depression, anxiety, and even suicide across the country as a result of the emotional and psychological impact of COVID,” said UIC’s Dr. Benjamin Van Voorhees, professor and head of pediatrics at the College of Medicine and principal investigator of the P2P research project. “We hope that the P2P Campaign can reach youth online and through social media in areas where there is a lack of mental health resources — for example, rural communities and some neighborhoods in the inner-city.”
A recent psychological survey conducted of 10,368 American adults supported these observations finding the coronavirus pandemic has led to higher depression levels, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, and psychological trauma. Earlier in the summer, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of 5,412 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 found that about 26% of respondents reported having seriously considered suicide in the previous 30 days.
“Many of the things we would recommend to deal with uncertainty and stress — establishing routines, spending time with friends and family, taking up a new sport or hobby — are compromised by COVID circumstances,” said Dr. Tracy Gladstone, a senior research scientist at Wellesley College and a principal investigator on the project. “Through the P2P Campaign, we are highlighting effective, evidence-based techniques that teens can use to manage their stress during an extraordinarily difficult time.”
The Path 2 Purpose Campaign, which is funded with a $500,000 supplementary COVID-19 project award from PCORI, leverages the educational materials of an online platform, formerly called CATCH-IT, that has been developed and is being tested in a long-term adolescent depression prevention study lead by UIC. The intervention uses public health strategies for mental health by enhancing community supports.
The P2P digital platform is nationwide and will be updated with new tips, suggestions, and COVID-specific storylines every week.
More information about the campaign and campaign materials are available online at https://www.path2purpose.info/campaign.
More information about the study, including information on how to participate, is also available online at https://www.path2purpose.info/.