The college years present a period of increased psychological distress for many Americans and college students report significant barriers to mental health treatment. The PI's goal is to become an independent investigator with expertise in the creation and evaluation of behavioral intervention technologies (BITs) in order to broaden the scope of mental healthcare service availability within existing systems. This proposal outlines a plan to achieve this goal, through the culmination of training and research plans into a successful R01 proposal. The training plan takes full advantage of the strong institutional support and environment at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies, which is led by the primary mentor for this proposal. Training goals necessary to the PI's career goal include growth in (1) user-centered design for the development of BITs, (2) implementation science, (3) clinical science including qualitative research and new clinical research methodologies, and (4) advanced professional skills. This plan builds on the PI's background in clinical psychology, which has focused on tele- mental health, stress management interventions, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In this K08, the PI will extend her work to include new populations (e.g. college students) and settings (college counseling centers) to increase the impact of her research through earlier intervention. The long-terms goal of the research is to integrate BITs into existing university healthcare settings, thus broadening the scope and reach of mental healthcare services. The research plan will develop and test a Student Stress Management (SSM) mobile program based within the framework of an evidence-based treatment for depression and anxiety. This program will increase engagement with mental health treatment, and supplement existing care by serving as an access point to more extensive mental health treatment options and as an independent treatment form. This will be achieved through the following specific aims: 1) to conduct user-centered design and usability testing to refine features and tools of the SSM program and determine feasibility and acceptability of the program for use on campus; 2) to conduct a pilot hybrid effectiveness-implementation trial of the SSM program within two university communities; and 3) to obtain preliminary data assessing efficacy the SSM program, changes in hypothesized mechanisms related to efficacy, and university system-level factors that would facilitate or retard the adoption, implementation, and sustainability of the program. These studies are expected to advance the design of BITs for young adults, and improve and increase the use of BITs in university settings, ultimately increasing the reach and impact of evidence-based practices. Skills acquired by carrying out the projects proposed in this application will allow the PI to successfully compete for R01 funding in order to conduct a larger effectiveness-implementation trial.
Roughly 3/4 of all lifetime cases of psychiatric disorders have an onset by age 24 and nearly 70% of Americans enroll in college immediately following high school, with even more enrolling in subsequent years. This is an important point at which to intervene and facilitate engagement with mental health treatment in order to avoid lifelong impacts of untreated mental illness, including substance use, academic failure, low work productivity, and impaired social relationships. Technology-based interventions, including mobile phone apps, can improve the reach and efficiency of mental health services provided on college campuses.
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