Mindfulness Virtual Community Program

ForaHealthyMe Inc. & York University Researchers Successfully Conclude RCT on Youth Mental Health

The results of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) conducted by researchers from York University's School of Health Policy and Management in partnership with ForaHealthyMe Inc. have been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research- Mental Health.

Titled an Eight-Week, Web-Based Mindfulness Virtual Community Intervention for Students' Mental Health: Randomized Controlled Trial, the study investigated the efficacy of a Mindfulness Virtual Community intervention in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress among undergraduate students in Toronto, Canada. The secondary outcomes included quality of life, life satisfaction, and mindfulness.

The study successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of an internet-based mindfulness- based interventions in reducing depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms in a student population.

The platform and technology used during the trial were developed by ForaHealthyMe Inc. The product included supportive online programs for University students in the form of scalable tailored virtual support tools and communities that include customizable e-educational modules, and online stress reduction programs.

Against the background of a need for innovative interventions to address the increasing mental health needs of university students and the demonstrated anxiolytic and antidepressant benefits of mindfulness training, the collaborators developed an 8-week, Web-based Mindfulness Virtual Community (MVC) intervention informed by cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) constructs.

The project was funded by the CIHR and the Govt. of Canada under the e-Health Innovation Partnership Program. The objective of eHIPP was to develop, integrate and evaluate, in collaboration with stakeholders, eHealth innovations that will improve the quality of outcomes and the cost effectiveness of patient and population-centered care.

Other partners included North York General Hospital, the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Dept. of Kinesiology & Health Science, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Background:The prevalence of diagnosable mental illness is growing on North American university campuses. On the York campus, an assessment of 997 students indicated that 57% scored in ranges that indicated depression levels so severe as to be diagnosable. During the same assessment 33% scored in moderate-to-high ranges with scores equivalent to individuals diagnosed with panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. The situation is similar in other universities. At the same time, existing services at most universities in Ontario are overwhelmed because of an increase in enrollment of 26% between 2007 - 2012 with only a 5% increase in counseling allocations.

Conclusion:The study demonstrated the effectiveness of an internet-based mindfulness-CBT intervention in reducing depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms among students. The student-centered design of the platform, which included design features identified through focus groups, might have contributed to the positive impact and reduced attrition.

This was a first of its kind in Canada. As far as we know.

The trial concludes, Internet-based mindfulness CBT-based interventions, can result in significant reductions in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress in a student population.

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