UM and NYU Shanghai collaborate on mental health app

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The University of Macau (UM) and New York University Shanghai have teamed up to develop a mental health-boosting mobile app which they said had elicited positive reviews.

According to the UM, the two institutions recently conducted the first trial of ‘Step-by-Step’ (SbS) among UM students to evaluate its effectiveness.

The research, presented on Tuesday, showed that SbS had effectively alleviated depressive symptoms among university students in the short term while improving their long-term mental well-being.

Prior to the trial, it took several months to conduct focus group interviews to improve various elements of the app, including its stories, visuals and language content.

The adjustments were made to ensure that the app was appropriate for the specific Chinese-language context, the university said.

To implement the subsequent large-scale randomised controlled trial, a feasibility study was conducted to gather feedback from participants.

The trial lasted one year, involving a total of 371 participants.

The intervention process lasted eight weeks, during which the effectiveness of the app was assessed on a weekly basis, with post-intervention assessments and follow-up interviews carried out at the end of the intervention.

Data from the study showed that participants rated the effectiveness of the app in reducing stress at an impressive seven out of 10.

More than half of the participants said that they had gained new knowledge and skills when it came to emotional management and planning.

The UM said that the research had also been published in the prestigious journal Translational Psychiatry.

Step-by-Step is an English-language digital mental health intervention application developed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The app teaches users behavioural activation and stress management strategies through an illustrated story that follows a person who has successfully learned to cope with stress, anxiety and depression.

In addition, users have the opportunity to receive 15 to 20 minutes of guidance per week via phone or chat messages from trained and supervised non-mental health professionals who act as online supporters.

Excerpt from

The above project is supported and partly funded by Rotary Club of Macau.

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Thanks to PP Elvo for inviting us to the Mental Health App “Step by Step” research presentation. This project was successfully created and completed through the University of Macau. We are looking forward to having more implementation in other universities and communities.
PE Calvin Kuang




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