Trinity research finds that digital CBT can significantly relieve anxiety and depression

Digital mental health intervention could assist those whose mental health has been drastically affected by COVID-19

Trinity researchers from the School of Psychology have collaborated with University of Sheffield to publish new research regarding digital mental health. 

This research found that digital mental health interventions can have significant long-term impact on anxiety and depression recovery. These findings come at a time when mental health providers anticipate a significant increase in a range of mental disorders stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. 

The research involved more than 350 NHS service users and was published in the Nature partner journal, Digital Medicine. The study was undertaken by SilverCloud Health, the world’s leading digital mental health company, with Trinity School of Psychology and health economics analysis from the University of Sheffield. A group was given 8 weeks of supported digital mental health intervention aimed to treat anxiety and depression. A control group was formed by placing some patients on a waiting list without any initial intervention.. 

Psychiatric interviews as part of the study showed that 56.4% of participants no longer had a diagnosis of anxiety, depression or a joint diagnosis after 3 months.The study included a formal diagnosis of depression in addition to patient self-reported outcomes. It also found a further significant decrease in symptom scores after 12 months. 

Dr. Derek Richards, the Chief Science Officer at SilverCloud Health and Co-Director of the E-Mental Health Research Group at Trinity, explained the benefits these findings are expected to have on future therapy programmes: “This is an important, large-scale research that demonstrates how digitally-provided cognitive behavioural therapy can enhance a wider mental health therapy programme calibrated to an individual’s needs.”

This research emphasises how digital cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT) as part of wider psychological care can deliver strong clinical improvements and recovery, aiding mental health services in the long run. Dr. Richards explains: “Due to its results on long-term improvement, recovery and cost-effectiveness, at a time of increasing demand for psychological and behavioural healthcare, digital mental health care should be viewed as a standard part of psychological support and no longer simply as an innovative approach.”

In relation to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on anxiety among populations worldwide and mental health deterioration in individuals globally, Dr. Richards explained how iCBT will be of support with the imminent rise in pressure on the mental health services both in Ireland and worldwide in coming months: “As a result of the global pandemic, many individuals within communities are facing mental health challenges and iCBT can play an important part complementing current mental healthcare services, increasing their reach and capacity, and helping support and treat more people.”

Niamh Tiernan

Niamh Tiernan is the deputy SciTech Editor, and a Senior Sophister student of Zoology.