Life has all sorts of hills and valleys, and sometimes you don’t end up doing what you had your heart set out on, but sometimes that’s even better.
– Ruth Buzzi
Hi! We have not posted in a while due to some ups and downs with this site not being able to retrieve old posts including a forever missing post from last spring. But we are back and such is life, such is research on a shoestring budget!
Over the past year, our SOVA Project has had some exciting developments. We have completed recruitment for our pilot Stress and Worry Trial and are now preparing analysis and a final manuscript. We published a study in Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings describing a 6-month process we used with 3 iterative focus groups in 2 primary care practices to understand how primary care providers (PCPs) might want to introduce SOVA to their patients. Dr. Radovic presented about this project at the Pediatric PittNet Lunch and Learn in March.
Right now, our team is also involved in several exciting new projects.
Dr. Radovic is co-director of Stakeholder Engagement and an Investigator on the Screening Wizard intervention for the NIMH ALACRITY-funded ETUDES center. The ETUDES center is also providing recruitment support for a project, “MoodRing” to understand whether measuring patterns of smartphone use in adolescents with depression can predict a change in symptom level. Dr. Radovic is working together as a co-PI on this project funded by a Small Business grant with Dr. Afsaneh Doryab from University of Virginia and Mr. Sam Shaaban from NuRelm. If you and your child are interested in this study please reach out!
Most of all, we are very excited about and grateful to the Fine Foundation, LEAD Pittsburgh, and Children’s Hospital Foundation for their support of our SOVA Peer Ambassador Program. Recently we received a grant from the Beckwith Institute to continue to provide support to youth during the pandemic. Our wonderful SOVA website editor and ambassador supervisor, Sana Karim, graduated this spring with her Masters in Applied Developmental Psychology from PITT. With her leadership and the help of our 2019 summer medical student, Kimberly Lin, our abstract – Experience of Peer Bloggers using a social media website for adolescents with depression or anxiety, giving back in a safe space – was accepted to the 2020 Pediatric Academic Societies meeting (cancelled due to the pandemic). Our preliminary results show a decrease in anxiety symptoms, stigma, social isolation, and an increase in self-esteem, competence, and confidence for our amazing bloggers. We are writing up this study and hope to publish our data soon!
SOVA Project wishes you all a Happy New 2019 Year!
We have made steady progress on recruitment for the Stress and Worry study, our pilot randomized controlled trial evaluating the SOVA intervention. This month, the protocol for this trial was published in JMIR-Research Protocols. There, we describe the study design and include an appendix of all of our measures. We are already learning so much from the process of running this trial, including all the nuances of recruiting a vulnerable population for trying out a website they may be unsure about using.
Dr. Radovic recently had the opportunity to work with Dr. Megan Moreno on a patient education piece for JAMA Pediatrics. In this article which is part of a series JAMA Pediatrics offers for patients and families, Dr. Radovic tries to normalize to parents that seeking help for depression in their teen is not an easy process, and that it is in fact, a process. Parents can benefit greatly from using a team approach for their own support from their and their child’s primary care provider as well as community mental health advocates that include parent peers.
We are grateful for our awesome team of students, research assistants, and stakeholders! Together, we are working on several projects including engaging community stakeholders, applying for future funding to expand our reach, and recruiting and onboarding SOVA peer ambassadors. If you know of a young person 14 to 26 who has had symptoms of depression and/or anxiety and may be interested in blogging for SOVA, please have them check out sova.pitt.edu/blog.
Lastly, if you are available on March 28 in Pittsburgh, please consider attending this year’s Adolescent Health Symposium with featured speakers on cyberbullying, technology interventions for adolescent health, and updates on how adolescents are using technology in relation to risk taking behaviors.
Our article on Depressed adolescents’ positive and negative use of social media is one of the most downloaded articles from Journal of Adolescence!
Recently, Dr. Radovic and colleague Dr. Megan Moreno co-edited a book on Technology and Adolescent Mental Health. This book features multiple leading minds in the field, summarizing the latest data and offering a balanced view on issues such as social media use in depressed teens, technology use among special populations, cyberbullying, multitasking, internet gaming disorder, and games and mental health. Each chapter finishes with a case-based example meant to help clinicians seeing adolescents for mental health concerns inquire and consider their technology use.
Lastly, we are grateful to the hard work of Cassandra Long, MSW, LSW who has moved on from her role as the main SOVA research assistant to pursue her clinical career goals at the University of Pittsburgh counseling center. Also, Congrats to our graduating psychology student seniors, Lindsay Bloomingdale and Maeve Clair! Thank you to Julia Bickerstaff, Veronica Zhang, and Jennifer Matesa. Jen will be staying on as the SOVA Peer Ambassador Leader!
We hope to share more updates with you all in the summer.
“If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
“Building resilience depends on the opportunities children have and the relationships they form with parents, caregivers, teachers, and friends. We can start by helping children develop four core beliefs: (1) they have some control over their lives; (2) they can learn from failure; (3) they matter as human beings; and (4) they have real strengths to rely on and share.”
― Sheryl Sandberg, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
Hello SOVA supporters. We are happy to update you that recruiting for SOVA blogging ambassadors is going very well! The ambassadors are really taking ownership of composing their posts and picking topics which will resonate with other readers and may help them to share their experiences too.
We’d like to now spend some time thinking about how to improve our site for parents, wisesova.pitt.edu, and are seeking interested parents to provide us with feedback.
If you are or you know of a parent you think would like to talk with us about having a child (adolescent or young adult) with depression or anxiety in a focus group format, please ask them to email us at email@example.com.
In 2018, we look forward to beginning the pilot randomized controlled trial of the SOVA intervention – supported by funds from the National Institute of Mental Health!
Til then, have a Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season to all! SOVA is grateful for our growing team, especially our students this year – Sharanya Bandla, Maeve Clair, Lindsey Bloomingdale, Jennifer Matesa, Veronica Zhang, and Jason Gruzin – also Jing Hua who has continued to volunteer her time and technical support. I am always extremely grateful to my mentoring network, our SOVA stakeholders and research participants, our administrative staff, and my wonderful diligent and enthusiastic research assistant, Cassandra Long. Let us all do our part to help children (and each other!) become more resilient in the face of an ever-changing but beautiful world.
“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”
―Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
A few updates for August!
The first paper on the SOVA intervention has been published! This paper describes how we used human computer interaction techniques and stakeholders to inform the design of the SOVA websites. Check out the abstract at the Journal of Technology in Human Services and email us if you would like a full copy.
We are recruiting SOVA Ambassadors! These are young people age 14 to 26 who are interested in blogging for the SOVA websites. They receive compensation, can add helping with a research study to a resume, and we help them with topics and editing! Also, they get to connect with each other and other youth online to provide support for depression and anxiety. We think it is a win-win!
Check out our video for more information below and if you know any young people who may be interested they can check out more info here or just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Before we created the sova websites: sova for adolescents and young adults and wisesova for parents, we wanted to learn about how adolescents with depression and their parents use social media. In user design, you want to know how someone uses a technology tool currently before you try to modify it. Also, we wanted to know whether or not social media was a good strategy to use to reach young people with depression?
Some of our main findings included that adolescents with depression:
Like using social media to search out information, for distraction, social connection, and share positive content like quotes or funny videos
Also use social media in some negative ways like sharing risky behaviors like sneaking out or to compare themselves with others
When in a bad mood some adolescents would “stress post” or share a negative thought as a status update as a way to get it off their chest or look for social support
Others would “overshare” or share too much personal information or mundane facts about their lives with the effect sometimes leading to cyberbullying
Sometimes would feel triggered by posts they would see like of pictures of self-harm
As adolescents got older and got treatment for their depression, they would also change how they used social media in a more positive way. For example, they would send a private message to a friend who had been supportive in the past – versus sending out a Twitter status on a fishing expedition to see who might notice or respond.
These adolescents had a lot of useful information to share about social media and we are happy to share their opinion and observations with the academic world by disseminating this work. I will be talking about this work and related research at two upcoming conferences for clinicians and families:
This week we had an excellent stakeholder advisory meeting. It really means so much to hear from teens, parents, providers, and advocates. We always get so much wonderful feedback which helps us change direction in a positive way. For example, last spring, our advisory board helped us make a big decision to open the sova and wisesova articles to the public. Now we only require a log-in for the social parts of the site: the discussion board; creating a profile; making comments on blog posts; writing blog posts; and sending a private message to the moderator.
This change resulted in a spike in site views.
The chart above is produced by Jing Hua, a graduate student in information science, who has been working with SOVA and gaining skills in data visualization through her coursework. This means now we can see how anything we do produces changes in site views, log-ins, and comments!
During this week’s meeting I shared that through our feasibility survey, we have found adolescents and young adults think sova – and parents think wisesova – are user friendly sites they enjoy using! Our next step is working on engagement – how do we get more people to find out about our sites – and how do we get them to contribute to the social community by reading, commenting, and writing blogposts themselves?
If you are interested – feel free to join our sites and share articles that you find meaningful to your social networks.
Remember for sova, you need to be 14-26 and have had symptoms of depression or anxiety (you don’t need to have a diagnosis). For wisesova, you need to have been a parent of a child who has had symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Also, please like and follow us on facebook, twitter, and instagram. We share inspiring quotes and some of our featured posts on instagram – so far we have over 75 followers.
This month I’d also like to introduce our two graduate students in social work who are working with SOVA as a field instruction site:
What are your educational aspirations?
My educational aspirations are to graduate with my MSW. Then following that I would plan to get licensed as an LSW and LCSW.
Where do you see yourself in your career 10 years from now? I want to have worked in multiple different career paths within the social work profession; for example in a nonprofit and maybe some community organizing. But my end goal is to have my own private practice. What personal goals are you working toward right now? Exploring the Pittsburgh area and seeing what it has to offer. Currently I have just been busy with school; in the near future I really want to make an effort to experience the city. What do you like about the SOVA project? I like that the SOVA Project has created this safe space online to education yourself on mental health and create a supportive community. My favorite part are the many positivity posts because I enjoy seeing inspirational quotes and phrases; you never know when one will really speak to you. What do you think are some of the barriers to the project gaining speed? Now the project just needs some more engagement. We have to find a way to create more interaction amongst the people registered and more blogs posted from our ambassadors. I think this will come with more exposure and more recruiting to get a larger group of people interested. What do you think are some of the strengths the project already has? A major strength this project has is that it contains a lot of good content. The post are informative, short and easily understood. Also the team behind the project is passionate about it and it really shows in all the work that is being put in behind the scene every day.
What are your educational aspirations?During my graduate education, I’d like to further my knowledge about vulnerable populations and ways to best serve these individuals. I am especially hoping to learn more about treatment, intervention, and advocacy for people with mental illness. I would also like to find ways to better promote the benefits of mental health and self-care. In the longer term, the plan is to obtain my Master of Social Work (MSW). After graduating, I’d like to get the two licensures required to practice therapy. Where do you see yourself in your career 10 years from now? The dream (for now) is to be established in a clinical setting practicing therapy. After graduating, I would like to obtain my licensure to practice clinical social work. I would really like to practice therapy for late adolescents and young adults as I feel like that is a time of great uncertainty for many people, regardless of what they are doing. I also have a lot of interest in psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I’ve tossed around the idea of furthering my education beyond my masters, but if I decide to do that it might be a ways down the road. What personal goals are you working toward right now? Right now, I am focusing on finding a balance between work and school. Graduate school can be a lot to handle, so I am trying to “practice what I preach” by prioritizing my own self-care in the midst of all the busy days. I would also like to get back into my old habits of reading and writing for my own benefit. I find this is a great outlet and I’m missing it! What do you like about the SOVA project? I think the SOVA project is incredibly innovative. The type of support the project offers can be so beneficial for the individuals it aims to serve. I am also really excited about writing and creating material related to mental health, as this is a main interest of mine. I also love the new aspect of the project that promotes users being ambassadors for the site by creating posts. What do you think are some of the barriers to the project gaining speed? I believe the greatest barrier to the website is the level of interactivity. I would love to see the site be more interactive for its users, as I believe it could be such a good resource and community. What do you think are some of the strengths the project already has? The most apparent strength to me is the commitment the team has to the project. I think that the team behind the SOVA project is very passionate about the site being the best resource it can be for the users. I also think that the users are the driving force for the project. Every decision the team makes is with the users in mind and I really appreciate that about the project.
Thanks for reading! A happy holiday season to you all from SOVA!
Some think this may be partly due to social isolation and having a hard time finding mental health resources. We hope that sites like sova.pitt.edu and wisesova.pitt.edu can be useful places where depressed adolescents and their parents can find not only education about mental health and resources – but also a supportive community to connect with, no matter where they are from.
Recently some of our more active parent users have provided some very insightful comments about how parenting adolescents in general can be so complex and fluctuant. We think by normalizing the challenges all parents experience raising a young person while also trying to help themselves and their child stay mentally well, parents can better accept whatever situation they are in and be ready to accept help offered to them or look for appropriate supports.
I will leave us with this quote by someone who thoroughly enjoyed nature and used it to leave us with meaningful guidance:
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
We are excited to announce the next step in SOVA. We are recruiting users to become SOVA (adolescent site) or wiseSOVA (parent site) ambassadors! This means that we will ask them to try to write a blogpost each month and comment at least once a week.
Our hope is that this new phase will grow site engagement and that the bloggers themselves will experience benefits from blogging!
Remember, if you know a young person with symptoms of depression or anxiety – or a parent who has had a child with these symptoms – who may be interested in blogging, please let them know about sovaproject! They can click register on sova.pitt.edu or wisesova.pitt.edu and start interacting!
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 fastcompany.com 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 myhealthapps.net. 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!