Online intervention brings a sense of belonging to young people with first episode psychosis

Online intervention brings a sense of belonging to young people with first episode psychosis

29 June 2020

Researchers at Orygen have found that young people who used a social media-based intervention in their recovery from first episode psychosis (FEP) reported feeling a sense of belonging, understanding and connectedness.

The study investigated young people’s use of Orygen digital’s social media-based platform Horyzons to connect with other young people experiencing FEP.

Horyzons is the first clinically tested online social network intervention designed to address social functioning in young people with FEP.

Orygen researcher Lee Valentine, who led the study, said a sense of social connectedness and belonging was important to young people, especially young people with first episode psychosis, as many experience high levels of loneliness, isolation and depression.

“This can all make it a bit tricky for these young people to engage with others face-to-face,” Lee said.

The Horyzons platform is similar to Facebook, but designed to improve young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

“It’s a platform that you log into from your phone or computer. It has a newsfeed, bite-sized therapy modules, and access to clinicians, peer workers and vocational workers. You can also see who else is online and share a space with other young people who are experiencing FEP.

“Although we found that social connectedness and belonging were really important reasons for young people to use the platform, we also found that issues such as social anxiety and paranoia sometimes hindered a young person’s ability to engage, even when they wanted to.

“The Horyzons platform addressed this by offering a flexible online intervention that could foster positive mental health changes to meet the differing needs of a wide range of young people with FEP,” Lee said.

“There are now many digital interventions available to young people, but they are not clinically tested, so if a young person uses them, it doesn’t mean that they’re actually going to benefit from the intervention.”

“Horyzons has been developed to create positive mental health changes for the young people who use it,” Lee said.

The study was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.  It was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, the Mental Illness Research Fund, a Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship, and a McCusker Charitable Foundation fellowship.