An mHealth Intervention and Community Partnership to Promote Mental Health in Children born to Mothers with Depression and Psychosocial Stress during COVID-19: A randomized controlled trial
An estimated 30% of babies born during the COVID‑19 pandemic were exposed to depression in-utero. Maternal depression negatively impacts parenting and increases the risk for child mental health and developmental problems. Risks for children and families are particularly high when maternal depression continues into the toddler years and occurs alongside high levels of stress, which were also heightened during the pandemic for many families. Easy-to-access programs are urgently needed to build resilience in, and prevent mental illness for a generation of children exposed to maternal depression and co-occurring stressors during the pandemic. We will address emerging mental health needs using a new App-based Therapy that was co-developed with parents over the past year. The 10-week BEAM Program “Building Emotional Awareness and Mental Wellness” combines best-practices for treating depression alongside emotion-focused parenting content to improve parent-child relationships and enrich children’s social and emotional skills. Delivered through cell-phones, by therapists from our community agency partners, BEAM includes anytime access to program content, a community forum with other parents, and weekly group therapy. We expect this work to be successful because our approach has been co-developed and tested with a parent advisory board and community agencies. Discussions with local and national collaborators highlight the value of such accessible programs that support both parent and child mental health. BEAM has high impact potential to prevent mental illness in at-risk children during the COVID‑19 pandemic and beyond.