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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00593

Can an emoji a day keep the doctor away? An explorative mixed-methods feasibility study to develop a self-help app for youth with mental health problems.

 Levi V. Dam1*,  Sianne Rietstra1,  Eva v. Drift2,  Geert Jan Stams1, Rob v. Mei3, Maria Mahfoud3, Arne Popma4, 5, Eric Schlossberg6, Alex Pentland6 and  Todd Reid6, 7
  • 1University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 2Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • 3Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica, Netherlands
  • 4University Medical Center Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 5Leiden University, Netherlands
  • 6Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States
  • 7Harvard University, United States

Today’s smartphones allow for a wide range of “big data” measurement, for example, ecological momentary assessment (EMA), whereby behaviours are repeatedly assessed within a person’s natural environment. With this type of data, we can better understand – and predict – risk for behavioral and health issues and opportunities for (self-monitoring) interventions. In this mixed-methods feasibility study, through convenience sampling we collected data from 32 participants (aged 16-24) over a period of three months. To gain more insight into the app experiences of youth with mental health problems, we interviewed a subsample of 10 adolescents who received psychological treatment. The results from this feasibility study indicate that emoji’s (i.e., graphic symbols such as ) can be used to identify positive and negative feelings, and individual pattern analyses of emoji’s may be useful for clinical purposes. While adolescents receiving mental health care are positive about future applications, these findings also highlight some caveats, such as possible drawback of inaccurate representation and incorrect predictions of emotional states. Therefore, at this stage, the app should always be combined with professional counseling. Results from this small pilot study warrant replication with studies of substantially larger sample size.

Keywords: Ecological momentary assessment (EMA), youth at risk, emoji’s , mobile health interventions, Adolescence-

Received: 09 Feb 2019; Accepted: 26 Jul 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Dam, Rietstra, Drift, Stams, Mei, Mahfoud, Popma, Schlossberg, Pentland and Reid. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Levi V. Dam, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands,