Supporting adolescents with depression via their smartphones

Learn how we’re meeting teens with depression where they are to deliver an evidence-based program that encourages a healthy lifestyle.

There’s an app for nearly everything these days — even one that can help adolescents live well with depression.

The average teen spends well over seven hours per day in front of screens. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that, in parallel, the prevalence of mental health conditions like depression among youth is rising at an alarming rate. Most of the time, smartphone use isn’t recommended for improving mental health.

But that isn’t always the case — sometimes, phone use can actually help encourage healthier lifestyles. Given the barriers that exist when seeking support for mental health and the fact that screens are here to stay, we’re meeting teens where they already are with supportive programs in an engaging format they’ll stick with.

Reimagining how we support teens with depression

Although 8 million adolescents in the US have had a depressive episode, up to 80% of children, youth, and young adults do not receive adequate support for their mental health conditions. Unfortunately, those who do seek help are often met with access challenges.

For example, the average wait time to see a specialized provider can be nearly two months. But there aren’t many specialized providers to begin with — only 4% of clinical psychologists in the US specialize in adolescent mental health. When you add in factors like access to transportation or working around parents’ busy schedules, the chances of an adolescent receiving timely support can become even more slim. Plus, other factors like stigma and preference can contribute to low care utilization rates in adolescents, as many may be hesitant or fearful to speak with someone they don’t know about their feelings.

When it comes to mental health, every moment matters. It’s clear there needs to be a more accessible option that meets the unique needs of adolescents. That’s where evidence-based digital programs come in.

Digital programs based on the principles of behavioral activation, like Spark Direct, can eliminate barriers by bringing tailored support for adolescents living with depression directly to them via their smartphones.

Cognitive and behavioral techniques for improving mood

Well-studied cognitive and behavioral techniques rooted in the principles of behavioral activation can be effective in helping adolescents better understand their relationship with mood and behavior — and, in turn, improve mood. Some examples of these techniques include:

  • Psychoeducation
  • Mood tracking
  • Problem-solving
  • Activity scheduling
  • Mindfulness

Behavioral activation helps adolescents learn that activity, especially activity aligned with their values, can help improve their mood. A teen may understand that they value sports, so in a program based on behavioral activation, they would be encouraged to join a local sports team or club. In doing so, they’d notice an improvement in mood. Small, achievable tasks like this are tracked and reinforced until the process becomes automatic for adolescents.

Programs that utilize these techniques through tailored and interactive exercises can help adolescents learn effective strategies for improving their mood in an engaging format.

Spark Direct: the first evidence-based digital program for adolescent depression

Spark Direct harnesses the power of behavioral activation in a fully digital environment to help adolescents live well with depression. In a clinical trial, Spark Direct was shown to deliver a statistically significant improvement in mood. Among trial participants, 45% reported improvement in mood. By offering a digital program that is evidence-based, convenient, and engaging for youth, we see untapped potential to support adolescents with depression and help them live healthier lives.

See Spark Direct firsthand — request a demo today.

1. Internal Data. (September 2023).

Spark Direct is a digital program that may help individuals live well with major depressive disorder (MDD) and symptoms of depression by providing them with cognitive and behavioral techniques that can improve mood. Spark Direct has not been reviewed or approved by the Food & Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please read the instructions for use.


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