Advancing Digital Connectivity to Support Population Mental Health during COVID-19

Risling, Tracie L | $195,487

Saskatchewan University of Saskatchewan 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

COVID‑19 has created multiple mental health stressors as identified by the World Health Organization. Canadians are being overwhelmed with rapid changes and uncertainty contributing to the mental health burden of pandemic life. This study will build on a previous knowledge synthesis project exploring existing and emerging digital mental health interventions to support better access to these resources during COVID-19. The use of a lower-tech two-way SMS texting program will provide opportunity for real-time community engagement (polling), to assess mental health needs and barriers to digital intervention access. The RE-AIM framework, a well-established implementation tool for planning and evaluating public health initiatives, will be used to monitor the Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, and Maintenance of the program through three phases in a mixed methods design. The following research objectives will guide these efforts: 1) Implement a mental health COVID‑19 SMS in collaboration with a patient/community advisory group to enhance the reach of the initiative; 2) Advance the effectiveness of the texting service through iterative cycles of reflection and action driven by advisory and SMS participant input; and, 3) Evaluate the adoption of the COVID‑19 SMS program with a focus on acceptability, satisfaction, and clinical benefit. The use of texting extends the reach of this digital intervention across divides that may separate some vulnerable or disadvantaged groups from other forms of mental health access and the flexibility of the implementation approach allows for rapid adaptability as the pandemic unfolds.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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