Mental Health

IWK researchers seek testers for app to help youth with depression

Goal of DoNamic is to help young people with depression set goals, do activities

A team of researchers are working on an app that will help young people with depression.
A team of researchers are working on an app that will help young people with depression.   Alex Cooke

Depressed? There might soon be an app for that.

Dr. Anna Huguet, a research scientist at the IWK Health Centre, is working to develop an app to help people aged 14 to 24 deal with depression.

She’s working with another principal investigator and a team of researchers to create the application.

She says people with depression have a hard time getting things done.

“(They) avoid a lot of things. They stay at home and they are thinking all the time about what they feel, of having negative thoughts on their minds,” she says.

Huguet says the app, called DoNamic, will encourage users to set goals and plan things to do that will give them a sense of achievement. People will be able to access it both from their computer and smartphone.

She says that in the age of technology, DoNamic would be a good way to reach out to people who wouldn’t seek help otherwise.

“People who are depressed, they are at home, they are reluctant to look for help. It’s hard for them to recognize ‘OK, I’m having a problem and I have to look for help,’” she says.

Sharlene Rozario, a research assistant working on  the project, has worked with Huguet before. She agrees that young people need an outlet for their depression.

“Self-management is becoming a very big thing, and especially with depression, it’s highly prevalent in younger populations, and not a lot of them seek help,” she says.

Huguet (left) and Rozario (right) at work at IWK.
Huguet (left) and Rozario (right) at work at IWK.   Alex Cooke

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research provided approximately $250,000 for the project, which the team started working on last summer. Right now they’re still recruiting youths to test it, but Huguet says they’re having a hard time getting young people to participate in the study due to the nature of the project.

“It’s a hard population to reach and to work with because you need to interact with them and they avoid a lot of things. Even coming to the IWK to test something, it’s a big thing for them.”

She estimates the initial testing should take around one and a half years to complete.

Huguet says the IWK is working on other internet-based projects as well. She was also a head researcher for myWHI, a tool which helps people track and cope with migraine headaches. The hospital is also working on projects to help people with anxiety and parents with children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

“The goal for us is trying to use technology as a way to help people,” says Huguet.

She says that young people who are interested in helping them test DoNamic can go to their website to see if they’re eligible.