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Digital approaches to adolescent mental health: a review of the literature

Working papers

Written by Fiona Samuels, Carmen Leon-Himmelstine, Rachel Marcus

Hero image description: Students use computers at a school in Tanzania Image credit:IICD Image license:CC BY 2.0

Young people are more engaged with digital technologies than ever before. and health interventions increasingly build on these new technological opportunities. This literature review investigates digital approaches to addressing adolescent mental health and psychosocial-related challenges with a focus on low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), particularly Tanzania and Viet Nam. The review is part of a two-and-a-half-year project to address the mental health needs of adolescents in schools, the community and at institutional level in Tanzania and Viet Nam through the co-creation and application of digital and non-digital technologies, funded by Fondation Botnar.

Key messages 

  • An increasing number of studies show that digital approaches have the potential to address the mental health and wellbeing difficulties of young people – for example, reducing depression and anxiety or helping to detect emerging mental disorders among adolescents.
  • However, most studies on digital approaches and mental health centre on the Global North, and there are gaps in knowledge about how technology can be used to support adolescents in LMICs.
  •  It is important that a range of actors are included when designing, implementing and evaluating digital approaches to young people’s mental health, and that inequalities of access (mediated by factors such as gender, age, socioeconomic background and location) are addressed.
Students use computers at a school in Tanzania
Lucia Rost with Fiona Samuels, Carmen Leon-Himmelstine and Rachel Marcus