Preventing depression relapse with mindfulness-based online social therapy.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a serious mental illness that will afflict one in four young people before they enter their 20s. Despite the initial effectiveness of modern drug and psychological treatments, more than half of young people with MDD will suffer repeated depressive episodes. This pattern of recurrence makes MDD the greatest cause of disability during adolescence and young adulthood worldwide. Yet there is currently a remarkable lack of evidence-based interventions designed to support young people to stay well after initial treatment of MDD.

Our multidisciplinary team has developed and pilot tested a novel online social therapy to prevent relapse in youth MDD, called Rebound. Rebound integrates safe and private peer-to-peer social networking and interactive therapeutic interventions targeting key mechanisms of risk for MDD (including mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, self-compassion and wellbeing therapy). This is supported by professional online support provided by peer workers and clinical psychologists, who monitor participants’ wellbeing, ensure the safety of the social network, and guide participants through evidence-based therapy content. Powered by our most advanced MOSTware sytem  (MOST V3), Rebound harnesses machine learning and natural language processing to deliver a uniquely personalised and responsive therapeutic experience to each young person.

Pilot testing of our first iteration of Rebound has confirmed that the platform is safe and highly engaging for young people in remission from moderate to severe MDD (Rice et al., 2016). In 2019 we will commence a NHMRC-funded randomised controlled trial assessing the effectiveness of our latest Rebound platform in preventing relapse of MDD. The trial will seek to recruit 288 young people (aged 14-25) in remission from MDD; and compare outcomes for those offered the 12-month Rebound intervention versus a standard online psychoeducation tool. If successful, Rebound will address a significant gap in public youth mental health services and transform long-term outcomes in youth depression.