Helping Canada measure the safety and effectiveness of youth mental health apps

Homewood Research Institute (HRI) is proud to announce a partnership project with Frayme that will help Canada evaluate the quality of mental health apps in a scientifically sound way.

To understand whether mental health apps are safe and effective, we must measure mental health outcomes for those who use them. Most of the tools and methods currently used to measure outcomes have not been scientifically validated for use in the digital mental health world.

This project — led by Dr. Yuri Quintana, an HRI Collaborating Scientist and faculty member at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts – will seek to identify the most useful and reliable metrics and measurement scales for assessing outcomes related to anxiety and depression among youth who use mental health apps.

People with lived and living experience, including youth and caregivers, will be engaged to identify the outcomes that matter most to them when using mental health apps. They are members of an expert panel working alongside scientists to determine the best methods to measure outcomes rigorously and effectively. The result will be a standardized set of metrics and tools that can be used to assess app effectiveness, compare apps, and ultimately improve services to benefit users.

This project follows a 2020 project in which HRI developed a Framework for assessing mental health apps for youth. The Framework defined a set of protocols to guide the development, evaluation, and regulation of mental health apps in Canada. It also identified key areas where current evaluations are lacking — among these was the standardized measurement of outcomes for app users. Thanks to generous funding from both Frayme and RBC Foundation, as well as meaningful engagement expertise and support from Frayme, HRI is now able to move this work forward to help Canadians make better use of digital mental health resources.