Internet-delivered treatment providing psychological intervention for mental health needs for college students may provide good clinical outcomes in an acceptable format, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

The aim of this prospective, phase 4 study was to assess the acceptability and effectiveness of a 5-week, internet-based mental-health intervention program for college students with anxiety or depression symptoms. Questionnaires were completed at intake, weekly during the intervention, postintervention, and at a 3-month follow up. Data regarding demographics, mental health status, personal safety, symptom measurements, and intervention satisfaction were collected through questionnaires. The intervention included 4 online lessons, 4 downloadable summaries, and homework activities based on principles of cognitive behavior therapy. An administration officer attempted to reach out to the student, either by telephone or online direct messaging, before the intervention and weekly throughout the intervention program.

Of the 1081 students who participated in the intervention program, 59% completed all 4 lessons, 77% completed postintervention data collection, and 62% completed 3-month follow-up data collection. The mean counselor contact time throughout the intervention program was 36.28 minutes per student. Adjusted longitudinal generalized estimating equation models indicated a significant overall time effect for depression and anxiety, and pairwise comparison, indicated improvements in symptoms from preintervention to postintervention and from postintervention to follow up (P <.001, for all). Clinically meaningful improvements were reported in 59% of students with depression and 66% of students with anxiety. Pairwise comparisons indicated that clinical outcomes were improved over the course of the intervention program, regardless of the initial symptom severity. Overall satisfaction was high with 75% of students reporting being satisfied or very satisfied with the intervention program, 93% of students would recommend the intervention program to others, and 91% of students reported it was worth their time.

Limitations of this study include the lack of a control group receiving traditional face-to-face treatment, limited data about clinical histories, reduced outcome data, the involvement of clinical researchers that limits reflection of a real routine care evaluation, and the inability to generalize this study population to the wider public.

After completion of the internet-delivered intervention program, “[l]arge clinical reductions were observed in symptoms of both anxiety and depression, with high levels of acceptability” the researchers concluded.

Reference

Dear BF, Johnson B, Singh A, et al. Examining an internet-delivered intervention for anxiety and depression when delivered as a part of routine care for university students: a phase IV trial [published online July 2, 2019]. J Affect Disord. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.06.044