Researchers at Stony Brook University Seek Children Ages 12-16 For Mental Health Study

The Lab for Scalable Mental Health at Stony Brook University in Suffolk County is seeking approximately 200 tweens and teens (ages 12-16) to take part in a nine-month study to see how effective a technology-based, single-session intervention can be in treating mental health issues such as depression. The study, which is called the BEST-TECH Project (Building Evidence-based Supports for Teens via Technology), will help determine if using a virtual reality app and online platform is a viable option to complement existing treatment options.

“Most teenagers in need of services aren’t actually able to access them due to a host of different barriers including length of treatment, cost of treatment, and [because] it’s difficult to travel to clinics and the waitlists are quite long very frequently,” says Jessica Schleider, Ph. D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University. “One of the challenges is that there aren’t enough clinicians to treat every single kid that’s struggling.”

As a result of this need in the community, the lab has partnered with a tech company called Limbix to develop an app that will teach children self-administered, healthy coping habits. These computer-based interventions have been previously shown to be effective, hence the lab’s push to expand its study to include VR as well. This added technology could also make the treatment more appealing for teens who might not be comfortable with the emotional vulnerability or stigma surrounding therapy and conventional mental health treatments. Additionally, utilizing VR can make treatment feel less like a chore, and more like a game, which can lessen teens’ reluctance to get treated.

The study will consist of a one-time visit the university, and two online follow-up surveys. Parking for the initial visit will be free, and families will receive $30 compensation for their time. Upon completion of the follow-up surveys, families will get an additional $20 Amazon gift card.

Ideal candidates include tweens and teens diagnosed with clinical depression, as well as those who are struggling with feelings of sadness but do not have an official diagnosis. To see if your child qualifies, parents can call the lab and answer a quick, 5-minute survey to see if their child is experiencing elevated levels of sadness compared to other children of the same age and gender. Anyone who has sought out therapy in the last year is also eligible.

There is no deadline for applications in order to be included in the study, as it will be running for the spring at summer at a minimum. However, those interested should reach out sooner rather than later. “I would encourage [families] to reach out even if they’re not sure if they would qualify, or if their teenager would qualify, because if they don’t meet criteria for this particular study, we will have opportunities in the future that they might be eligible for,” Dr. Schleider says.

For more information, or to sign up, call 631-632-7578 or email [email protected].