Research Article
No access
Published Online: 11 September 2014

Youth Mental Health Interventions via Mobile Phones: A Scoping Review

Publication: Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Volume 17, Issue Number 9


Mobile phone technologies have been hailed as a promising means for delivering mental health interventions to youth and adolescents, the age group with high cell phone penetration and with the onset of 75% of all lifetime mental disorders. Despite the growing evidence in physical health and adult mental health, however, little information is available about how mobile phones are implemented to deliver mental health services to the younger population. The purpose of this scoping study was to map the current state of knowledge regarding mobile mental health (mMental Health) for young people (age 13–24 years), identify gaps, and consider implications for future research. Seventeen articles that met the inclusion criteria provided evidence for mobile phones as a way to engage youth in therapeutic activities. The flexibility, interactivity, and spontaneous nature of mobile communications were also considered advantageous in encouraging persistent and continual access to care outside clinical settings. Four gaps in current knowledge were identified: the scarcity of studies conducted in low and middle income countries, the absence of information about the real-life feasibility of mobile tools, the need to address the issue of technical and health literacy of both young users and health professionals, and the need for critical discussion regarding diverse ethical issues associated with mobile phone use. We suggest that mMental Health researchers and clinicians should carefully consider the ethical issues related to patient–practitioner relationship, best practices, and the logic of self-surveillance.

Get full access to this article

View all available purchase options and get full access to this article.


Rodgers A, Corbett T, Bramley D, et al. Do u smoke after txt? Results of a randomised trial of smoking cessation using mobile phone text messaging. Tobacco Control 2005; 14:255–261.
Franklin VL, Waller A, Pagliari C, et al. A randomized controlled trial of Sweet Talk, a text-messaging system to support young people with diabetes. Diabetic Medicine: A Journal of the British Diabetic Association 2006; 23:1332–1338.
Huckvale K, Car M, Morrison C, et al. Apps for asthma self-management: a systematic assessment of content and tools. BMC Medicine 2012; 10:144.
Joo N-S, Kim B-T. Mobile phone short message service messaging for behaviour modification in a community-based weight control programme in Korea. Journal of Telemedicine & Telecare 2007; 13:416–420.
Bauer S, Percevic R, Okon E, et al. Use of text messaging in the aftercare of patients with bulimia nervosa. European Eating Disorders Review 2003; 11:279–290.
Robinson S, Perkins S, Bauer S, et al. Aftercare intervention through text messaging in the treatment of bulimia nervosa—feasibility pilot. International Journal of Eating Disorders 2006; 633–638.
Harrison V, Proudfoot J, Wee PP, et al. Mobile mental health: review of the emerging field and proof of concept study. Journal of Mental Health 2011; 20:509–524.
Morris ME, Kathawala Q, Leen TK, et al. Mobile therapy: case study evaluations of a cell phone application for emotional Self-awareness. Journal of Medical Internet Research 2010; 12:e10.
Sarasohn-Kahn J. (2012) The online couch: mental health care on the web. (accessed Mar. 14, 2013).
Koivusilta LK, Lintonen TP, Rimpelä AH. Orientations in adolescent use of information and communication technology: a digital divide by sociodemographic background, educational career, and health. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health 2007; 35:95–103.
Thomas S, Heinrich S, Kühnlein A, et al. The association between socioeconomic status and exposure to mobile telecommunication networks in children and adolescents. Bioelectromagnetics 2010; 31:20–27.
Kessler RC, Amminger P, Aguilar-Gaxiola S, et al. Age of onset of mental disorders: a review of recent literature. Current Opinion in Psychiatry 2007; 20:359–364.
Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, et al. Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey replication. Archives of General Psychiatry 2005; 62:593–602.
Rickwood D, Deane FP, Wilson CJ, et al. Young people's help-seeking for mental health problems. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health 2005; 4:1–34.
Arksey H, O'Malley L. Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 2005; 8:19–32.
Mayring P. Qualitative content analysis. Forum Qualitative Scozilforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research 2000; 1:1–8.
Branson CE, Clemmey P, Mukherjee P. Text message reminders to improve outpatient therapy attendance among adolescents: a pilot study. Psychological Services 2013; 10:298–303.
Furber GV, Crago AE, Meehan K, et al. How adolescents use SMS (short message service) to micro-coordinate contact with youth mental health outreach services. Journal of Adolescent Health: Official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine 2011; 48:113–115.
Grassi A, Gaggioli A, Riva G. The green valley: the use of mobile narratives for reducing stress in commuters. Cyberpsychology & Behavior 2009; 12:155–161.
Kauer SD, Reid SC, Crooke AHD, et al. Self-monitoring using mobile phones in the early stages of adolescent depression: randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research 2012; 14:e67.
Kauer SD, Reid SC, Sanci L, et al. Investigating the utility of mobile phones for collecting data about adolescent alcohol use and related mood, stress and coping behaviours: lessons and recommendations. Drug & Alcohol Review 2009; 28:25–30.
Matthews M, Doherty G. In the mood: engaging teenagers in psychotherapy using mobile phones. Proceedings of the 2011 Annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2011; 2947–2956.
Matthews M, Doherty G, Coyle D, et al. (2008) Designing mobile applications to support mental health interventions. In Lumsden J, ed. Handbook of research on user interface design and evaluation for mobile technology. Vols 1 and 2. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference/IGI Global, pp. 635–656.
Matthews M, Doherty G, Sharry J, et al. Mobile phone mood charting for adolescents. British Journal of Guidance Counselling 2008; 36:113–129.
Nolan C, Quinn S, MacCobb S. Use of text messaging in a mental health service for university students. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health 2011; 27:103–125.
Reid SC, Kauer SD, Khor AS, et al. Using a mobile phone application in youth mental health. Australian Family Physician 2012; 41:711–714.
Reid SC, Kauer SD, Hearps SJC, et al. A mobile phone application for the assessment and management of youth mental health problems in primary care: a randomised controlled trial. BMC Family Practice 2011; 12:131.
Reid SC, Kauer SD, Dudgeon P, et al. A mobile phone program to track young people's experiences of mood, stress and coping. Development and testing of the mobiletype program. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology 2009; 44:501–507.
Riva G, Grassi A, Villani D, et al. Managing exam stress using UMTS phones: the advantage of portable audio/video support. Studies in Health Technology & Informatics 2007; 125:406–408.
Riva G, Preziosa A, Grassi A, et al. Stress management using UMTS cellular phones: a controlled trial. Studies in Health Technology & Informatics 2006; 119:461–463.
Silk JS, Forbes EE, Whalen DJ, et al. Daily emotional dynamics in depressed youth: a cell phone ecological momentary assessment study. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 2011; 110:241–257.
Suffoletto B, Callaway C, Kristan J, et al. Text-message-based drinking assessments and brief interventions for young adults discharged from the emergency department. Alcoholism, Clinical & Experimental Research 2012; 36:552–560.
Whittaker R, Merry S, Stasiak K, et al. MEMO—a mobile phone depression prevention intervention for adolescents: development process and postprogram findings on acceptability from a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research 2012; 14:e13.
Rodriguez A, Rey B, Alcaniz M, et al. GameTeen: new tools for evaluating and training emotional regulation strategies. Studies in Health Technology & Informatics 2012; 181:334–338.
Free C, Phillips G, Galli L, et al. The effectiveness of mobile-health technology-based health behaviour change or disease management interventions for health care consumers: a systematic review. PLoS Medicine 2013; 10:e1001362.
World Bank. Information and communications for development 2012: maximizing mobile. (accessed Aug. 21, 2013).
Luxton DD, McCann RA, Bush NE, et al. mHealth for mental health: Integrating smartphone technology in behavioral healthcare. Professional Psychology Research & Practice 2011; 42:505–512.
Abroms LC, Padmanabhan N, Thaweethai L, et al. iPhone apps for smoking cessation: a content analysis. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2011; 40:279–285.
Conrad P. (2007) The medicalization of society: on the transformation of human conditions into treatable disorders. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Mort M, Finch T, May C. Making and unmaking telepatients: identity and governance in new health technologies. Science, Technology & Human Values 2007; 34:9–33.
Andreassen HK. What does an e-mail address add? Doing health and technology at home. Social Science & Medicine 2011; 72:521–528.
Lupton D. Quantifying the body: monitoring and measuring health in the age of mHealth technologies. Critical Public Health 2013; 1–11.
Lupton D. M-health and health promotion: The digital cyborg and surveillance society. Social Theory & Health 2012; 10:229–244.

Information & Authors


Published In

cover image Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Volume 17Issue Number 9September 2014
Pages: 591 - 602
PubMed: 25007383


Published online: 11 September 2014
Published in print: September 2014
Published ahead of print: 9 July 2014


Request permissions for this article.




Yukari Seko
Self-Injury and e-Mental Health Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Sean Kidd
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
David Wiljer
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Kwame McKenzie
Social Aetiology of Mental Illness (SAMI) Training Program, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Address correspondence to:Dr. Sean KiddCentre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH)1001 Queen Street West, Unit 2-1 Room 161TorontoOntario, M6J1H1Canada
E-mail: [email protected]

Author Disclosure Statement

No competing financial interests exist.

Metrics & Citations



Export citation

Select the format you want to export the citations of this publication.

View Options

Get Access

Access content

To read the fulltext, please use one of the options below to sign in or purchase access.

Society Access

If you are a member of a society that has access to this content please log in via your society website and then return to this publication.

Restore your content access

Enter your email address to restore your content access:

Note: This functionality works only for purchases done as a guest. If you already have an account, log in to access the content to which you are entitled.

View options


View PDF/ePub

Full Text

View Full Text







Copy the content Link

Share on social media

Back to Top