Category Archives: Research

SOVA Feasibility Study

SOVA Graphic

We are excited to announce that we are now in our recruitment phase of the Supporting Our Valued Adolescents (SOVA) feasibility study!  In this phase of the SOVA project we are hoping to find if it is realistic to recruit an online community of 100 users to each of our sites.  This would mean 100 adolescents on our SOVA site and 100 parents of adolescents on our wiseSOVA site.

We will be recruiting:

Adolescents/Young Adults (

  • 14-26 years old
  • experienced symptoms of anxiety and/or depression now or in the past
  • not have current active suicidal thoughts (have a plan to act on these thoughts) or past suicide attempts

Parents (

  • Has an adolescent/young adult (ages 14-26) who has experienced symptoms of anxiety and/or depression now or in the past

In order to sign up all participants will need to do is register through our sites:



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  • Talk with your colleagues and friends about the study


Preparing Our Students for College


7184808054_faa7bac3f1 Photo Credit: Illinois Springfield via Compfight cc

Recently, the JED Foundation, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and The Jordan Porco Foundation released the results from a study showing how young adults transition from high school to college. Many challenges arise at this tough time that can greatly affect how your future plays out. If we, as healthcare providers, know what these challenges are, we can help intervene!

The Harris Poll of 1,502 U.S. first-year college students found that emotional preparedness- which is defined by the ability to take care of oneself, adapt to new environments, control negative emotions or behavior, and build positive relationships– plays a major role in students’ success during their first year of college. Students who are less emotionally prepared for college were more likely to have a lower GPA and label their college experience as terrible or poor. 60% of the students wish they had more help with their emotional preparedness for college.

One of the major issues is that the support they wish they had was not there. 51% of the students said they found it difficult to get emotional support at college. So where do these students look for support when they need it?

76% turn to their friends for support

64% turn to their family for support

24% turn to the university staff for support

While some students are seeking support, 65% of first year college students say they tend to internalize these feelings about such challenges. Here at SOVA, we are determined to figure out a way to bring this percentage down. Our goal, via technology, is to provide another mode of support. Creating a safe and anonymous environment online, can give adolescents a way to out their challenges without feeling embarrassed. An online support community can also be extremely accessible at all times, unlike most of the other support systems.


New Survey Reveals Mental Health of Allegheny Teens

The Allegheny County Health Department, in partnership with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and Pitt Public Health, conducted an anonymous telephone survey of more than 1,800 teens, the results of which were released in August.  This survey was called the Healthy Allegheny Teen Survey (HATS) and was completed due to the lack of available data on our adolescents here in Allegheny County.

For us working on SOVA project this information was especially startling.  The depression and suicide questions in particular found:

  •  During the last 12 months, 19% felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks in a row so they stopped doing their regular activities. [30% nationally]
  •  10% report that they seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months [17% nationally]
  • Of those 10%, 42% report that they attempted suicide one or more times in the past 12 months.
  • 35% report that they have hurt themselves on purpose in the past 12 months (no national data available)



On some points Allegheny is doing better than the national average. However, at SOVA we think that 19% of our adolescents feeling sad or hopeless every day for two weeks in a row and 35% having self-harmed is 19% and 35% too many. Our adolescents deserve so much better.  SOVA was created in order to link adolescents and their parents to positive interactions with peers in a moderated environment and correct information about mental health to reduce barriers to treatment. With one fifth of our adolescents in Allegheny stopping activities they love due to depression, and over one third of our teens coping with self-harm we know there is still a lot of work to do.


Post-gazette: Survey reveals concerns, positives in health of Allegheny county youths

ACHD: Allegheny County Health Department

Culture’s Role in Identifying and Treating Depression

Hi, Friends!

As public health advocates, we are constantly concerned  with cultural competencies and addressing the unique needs of those we serve.  The Kaiser Health News recently published an article that showcases culture’s role in identifying depression and seeking treatment.  Research has shown that Asian Americans are more likely to consider suicide than their white counterparts.  Depression among this frequently overlooked and understudied population segment is particularly challenging due to the cultural barriers that stand in the way of diagnosing and treating the condition.  The article notes that depression is often not seen as a brain disease and is typically stigmatized due to the high standards that are set within the culture.  The author illustrates this through an incredibly poignant story of an adolescent Asian American girl’s struggle with depression and the challenges she faced when confronting her family regarding her mental health needs.

Please take a look and share your thoughts on issues you have faced relating to cultural competencies and overlooked and under-served population segments.

Lastly, don’t forget about our collaboration page and please provide us with your feedback whenever you have a moment!



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