Support SOVA in Suicide Prevention

Hi SOVA stakeholders!

We are reposting this today in an effort to reach our fundraising goal! Please give at least $5 if you can – every little bit counts. Even $25 funds a suicide loss survivor attending their local International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day (ISOSL) event.

On August 27th, our team will be participating in the Out of Darkness Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Funds raised by this walk go to funding suicide prevention advocacy, research like how risks in LGBT populations differ,  educational resources to prevent suicide in specific communities such as physicians and medical students, as well as resources and peer support for those affected by suicide.

Please donate and help us make a difference! If you are interested in joining our team, feel free to sign up! Thank you!

Summer Research Student Day 2016

Yesterday was the 2016 Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Summer Student Research Poster Day. Our summer students, Amie and Anh presented their posters on the SOVA Project.

Amie spent this summer working  hard on engaging youth and parents to check out the sites, comment, and get more involved. For her poster, she looked at whether use of the site increased with some of her strategies, like doing a pet photo contest!

Anh examined our baseline data on adolescents and young adults who were involved in giving us feedback on the SOVA sites. She was specifically interested to see if characteristics of positive youth development, such as caring, correlated with depression severity.

We thank them for their awesome work and enthusiasm this summer and wish them the best of luck!



Apps for Mental Health

I’m excited to share some of our recent work with you regarding evaluating smartphone applications for mental health.

Our article published in this month’s edition of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking examines a group of popular mental health apps and characterizes them, based on their app store descriptions. We looked at what the purpose of these apps seemed to be for: were they for symptom relief or just education, for example? Also we wanted to know did they seem to cover the bases regarding what types of mental health information would be important for mental health app consumers – like letting consumers know whether the app is evidence based or whether it protects their privacy. Like others in the field, we think it is important for clinicians to talk to their patients about what apps they might be using for their mental health. And to sit down together to look into whether the app is actually helpful or not.

This article on talks about the multiple stakeholders involved in developing mental health apps and how their views on the best approach may differ. This is why sometimes the individual may need to do some more work on their end before knowing whether an app will be useful to them.

On sova and wisesova, each Friday we post about online resources. Recently we highlighted This is a site which uses patient reviews to help others decide whether to try out an app or not.  We also asked our online communities on sova to try out apps and let others know if they found them useful.

Of course, there is much more to ask about and learn on this topic, and we hope our recent article is a conversation-starter!

Bringing research into practice

This post was written by Ashley Seiler, MSW candidate.

We recently wrote an article on SOVA and on wiseSOVA that explained a study on co-rumination and it turned out to be a very relatable topic for both our adolescents and parents! Since co-rumination is such an easy pattern to fall into, it seems like a natural way to cope with our problems. However, this study pointed out the negative impacts of co-rumination, such as not developing effective coping skills or problem solving thinking. Both the parents and youth found this article to be very interesting and we had comments on both of our websites.

This is a good example of a way to bring research into practice.  On the SOVA websites, some posts attempt to translate the research data into information that can be easily digested by adolescents and parents.  In the clinic, a behavioral health clinician or medical provider may notice that a patient and their parent  both seem to be focusing on only one negative topic and decide to talk to them separately about the issue. This can help facilitate independent problem-solving to work towards finding a solution instead of dwelling on the negativity of the situation. Then you can revisit the topic together to make a plan. This can also help to empower our adolescent patients to take ownership of their health care.

If you have any thoughts on the article, let us know in the comments below!



Photo Credit: via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

This week, we thought it might be interesting to share some of the feedback we are getting from users and how this is informing changes we are making to the sova sites.

Last year, Theresa wrote and then recently reposted a brief overview of all the different types of helping professionals who can help to treat mental illness called, “What do all these letters mean?” – referring to the post-nominal letters after a professional’s name like PhD.

We received several comments on that article letting us know it was helpful but that young people especially wanted to know more information and details. Our new research assistant, Amie, set to work. At first she created a table which looked great on word but blurry in wordpress. We have started using piktochart, an infographic design app, for a newsletter we send out to research participants. We thought – why not try making a more interesting looking infographic instead of a table? Infographics look great and seem to be more engaging, grabbing a user’s attention in a fun way. Although as Amie will tell you, they do require some time and perseverance!

These articles were published yesterday on sova and wisesova with the infographics.

What do you think? Feel free to comment below or email us! We value you this group as our stakeholders and welcome any advice! Thank you!

SOVA updates

This week we tried out using a more provocative title on our sites, “When I grow up, I don’t want to be like you.” This title is meant to grab the reader’s attention, but the context of the article is bringing up the issue of worrying you will “turn into” a relative who has a similar problem with mental illness. We hope the article makes readers think about how they are a unique individual and even though mental illness can run in families, they are the captain of their own ship. In addition for adolescents, if they are in treatment, it is likely that they are receiving it earlier than their relatives did – as it takes an average of 10 years! to get into treatment for mental illness.  Check out these posts on our adolescent site, and on our parent site,

In other news, SOVA is now on Instagram! If you have an account, please follow us at sovaproject.


Share our posts!

If you are someone who likes to share blog articles you enjoy with your social network, feel free to look through our articles on (intervention site for adolescents) and (intervention site for parents).  We were excited to share with you a couple weeks ago the reasons we opened up our blogs so that anyone can read the articles. If they would like to comment, then they have to log-in and enter the study.  The current phase of the study is to get feedback on the sites to continue to improve them, and to build our user community.

We’ve added easy to use share buttons at the bottom of each blog article, so feel free to share away even if you are not in the study! Thanks for your continued support!


Meet Amie DiTomasso, our Moderator Supervisor. Amie is a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh in the Combined Public Health/Social Work program. She is also a certified yoga instructor. Her main interests include: working with adolescents and young adults, promoting positive health, playing the guitar, and teaching or practicing hot vinyasa yoga.

We interviewed Amie to find out a little more about her as well as gain some insight about our project.

Amie Face

What are your educational aspirations? 

Right now I am very focused on completing my dual master’s program in Public Health and Social Work at Pitt. I am currently working on draft two of my master’s thesis! I plan to graduate in August and jump right into work. Longer term, I aspire to achieve a Ph.D. in Public Health.

In addition to my academic aspirations, I hope to continue my yoga certifications. Right now I am a registered yoga teacher (RYT) in a 200 hour program. I would love to complete my 500 hour certification in the future.

Where do you see yourself in your career 10 years from now?

            Ten years from now I hope to have completed my Ph.D. and would like to be jointly working in the non-profit and academic sectors. I want to design, implement, and evaluate healthy lifestyle programs (especially geared towards positive reproductive sexual health) for adolescents. I would love to teach part-time for undergraduate or graduate level students who are interested in community and clinical research. In addition, I hope to create and evaluate a combined behavioral health and yoga therapy program geared towards helping young women who have experienced interpersonal violence.

What personal goals are you working toward right now?

            Well, not long agAmie Yogao I was working on a stable handstand yoga practice! Recently however, I needed surgery on my foot and am currently focused on healing (it is important to listen to your body!). I’ve also been working on singing while playing the guitar which, in my opinion, is very challenging but a lot of fun!

What do you like about the SOVA project?

            I love the overarching goals of the SOVA project! I think creating a safe online community for young people is SO important! There is so much information out there and it can be so tough to sort through all of it. I think SOVA is doing a fantastic job at posting accurate, useful, and relatable information. I really like that SOVA encourages users to get involved through blogging and commenting and that SOVA welcomes all feedback, positive or negative!

What do you think are some of the barriers to the project gaining speed?

            It can be tough to put yourself out there and share your experiences with others. I think it’s challenging to get SOVA and WiseSOVA members to engage with each other, but it’s helpful to remember these are sites that promote peer support! On the backend there is so much hard work that goes into every little detail, once the SOVA team works out some of those tiny details (or kinks) I believe the project can soar!

What do you think are some of the strengths the project already has?

First off, I think the SOVA team is superb! Our team members have a variety of backgrounds and experiences that we can use to share and learn from one another. I think a major project strength is the usability of the website and the continued efforts to make improvements. The project has the ability to reach people from all over the place and is such a great resource for young people and even parents. In addition, the project already has a number of all-star users who regularly engage with the site and the team. I am very excited to be a part of this project and can’t wait to hear from you!


We have news!

Anyone can look through and read all the blog articles on sova and wisesova!

Photo Credit: SubtlePanda via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: SubtlePanda via Compfight cc

This week, we opened our sites so that the blog post articles are no longer log-in only.  This means if you go to our site for adolescents ( or our site for parents (, anyone can look through and read all the blog articles. Also if anyone would like to subscribe to receive the daily blog articles, they can enter their name in the subscribe box on the homepages of each site.

So when do you have to log-in? How do people enter the study?

If someone would like to comment, then they will have to log in. If it is their first time to log in, they will have to register. They will have to wait until our study team approves them as a user after registering before they can log on to the site.  Depending on the phase of our study, they may  or may not qualify as a user since all non-team users are currently part of our study.

What phase of the study are you in?

Right now we are still testing both sites for feasiblity. That means we are trying to answer: will people use them? will they like them? how can we make them better? After we complete our recruitment goals for that study, we will move to the next phase of growing the online community.  We will let you know when that happens!

Why does this matter to me?

Now anyone can feel free to explore the sites!

Why did you make this change?

Making the SOVA websites is an iterative process. This means we learn what users want – make the changes – then we again ask the users what they like what they don’t like or we see which parts of the site they use and don’t use – and make more changes…over and over again. The current user feedback has led us to changing the site to be more engaging by opening up the blog articles while still making sure parts of the site are anonymous – by asking users to log-in to view others’ comments.

How can I help get the word out about sovaproject?

Feel free to share articles on your social media which speak to you!

Feel free to recommend articles you read and like to your family, friends, colleagues, patients, clients!

Like us on Facebook!

Also, feel free to give us feedback on articles by emailing us at!

Thanks for reading!