Digital tools to support mental health: A survey study in psychosis.

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There is a notable a gap between promising research findings and implementation of digital health tools. Understanding and addressing barriers to use is key to widespread implementation.

A survey was administered to a self-selecting sample in-person (n=157) or online (n=58), with questions examining: i) ownership and usage rates of digital devices among people with psychosis; ii) interest in using technology to engage with mental health services; and iii) facilitators of and barriers to using digital tools in a mental healthcare context.

Device ownership: Virtually all participants owned a mobile phone (95%) or smartphone (90%), with Android phones slightly more prevalent than iPhones. Only a minority owned a fitness tracker (15%) or smartwatch (13%). Device ownership was significantly lower in unemployed people and those without secondary education. Device cost and paranoid ideation were barriers to ownership.

Technology and mental health services: Most participants (88%) said they would willingly try a mental health app. Symptom monitoring apps were most popular, then appointment reminders and medication reminders. Half the sample would prefer an app alongside face-to-face support; the other half preferred remote support or no other mental health support.

Facilitators: Participants thought using a mental health app could increase their understanding of psychosis generally, and of their own symptoms. They valued the flexibility of digital tools in enabling access to support anywhere, anytime.

Barriers: Prominent barriers to using mental health apps were forgetting, lack of motivation, security concerns, and concerns it would replace face-to-face care. Overall participants reported no substantial effects of technology on their mental health, although a quarter said using a phone worsened paranoid ideation. A third used technology more when psychotic symptoms were higher, whereas a third used it less. Around half used technology more when experiencing low mood.

Our findings suggest rapidly increasing device ownership among people with psychosis, mirroring patterns in the general population. Smartphones appear appropriate for delivering internet-enabled support for psychosis. However, for a sub-group of people with psychosis, the sometimes complex interaction between technology and mental health may act as a barrier to engagement, alongside more prosaic factors such as forgetting.
Original languageEnglish
Article number726
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2023


  • psychosis
  • schizophrenia
  • digital health, survey
  • survey
  • smartphone
  • wearable


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