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New study will deliver social media-based counseling intervention to local peripartum adolescents

Dr. Keshet Ronen (Clinical Assistant Professor, Global Health) received a Technology and Adolescent Mental Wellness grant by the University of Wisconsin’s Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT).  The new study, entitled “Social media support for peripartum adolescents in Seattle”, takes lessons learned in Kenya using social media to facilitate peer support for youth and applies them here in Seattle.

The study team includes UW investigators, Drs. Amritha Bhat (Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences), Jennifer Unger (Global Health and OBGYN), Grace John-Stewart (Global Health, Epidemiology, Medicine, and Pediatrics) and Yolanda Evans (Pediatrics; Seattle Children’s Research Institute), as well as Dr. Darius Tandon of Northwestern University.

Dr. Ronen and her team will develop and pilot a social media group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention—a form of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps patients understand how thoughts and feelings influence behavior—to prevent perinatal depression among adolescents. The intervention will adapt the evidence-based Mothers and Babies (MB) stress management and postpartum depression preventative intervention for social media delivery. Interactive social media platforms are widely used by adolescents and provide an opportunity for peripartum adolescent to access counseling and social support, while overcoming access to barriers associated with in-person mental health care, including transportation, time, cost, and stigma.

The team will employ a user-centered design framework to generate a social media intervention that delivers core MB elements (psychoeducation, skill building, and peer support) and test the intervention with pregnant adolescents in the Seattle area.  They will evaluate its uptake, acceptability, and impact on mental wellness measures including social support, CBT skills, and depressive symptoms over a 3-month period.

Approximately 13% of peripartum women experience depression, with negative consequences for both women and their infants. Risk of depression is especially high among young women, low-income women, and women of color. Dr. Ronen and her study team hope that the social media intervention will overcome some of the barriers associated with attending in-person care, and allow underserved peripartum women to benefit from evidence-based depression prevention and access better health for themselves and their children.