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The Use of Technology to Provide Mental Health Services to Youth Experiencing Homelessness: Scoping Review

HumanInsight The Use of Technology to Provide Mental Health Services to Youth Experiencing Homelessness: Scoping Review

J Med Internet Res. 2023 Jan 16;25:e41939. doi: 10.2196/41939.


BACKGROUND: There is growing interest in using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve access to mental health services for youth experiencing homelessness (YEH); however, limited efforts have been made to synthesize this literature.

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to review the research on the use of ICTs to provide mental health services and interventions for YEH.

METHODS: We used a scoping review methodology following the Arksey and O'Malley framework and guidelines from the Joanna Briggs Institute Manual for Evidence Synthesis. The results are reported according to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) statement and the PRISMA-ScR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews). A systematic search was conducted from 2005 to 2021 in MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, PsycInfo, Cochrane, Web of Science, and Maestro and in ProQuest Thesis and Dissertations, Papyrus, Homeless Hub, and Google Scholar for gray literature. Studies were included if participants' mean age was between 13 and 29 years, youth with mental health issues were experiencing homelessness or living in a shelter, ICTs were used as a means of intervention, and the study provided a description of the technology. The exclusion criteria were technology that did not allow for interaction (eg, television) and languages other than French or English. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and qualitative approaches. Two reviewers were involved in the screening and data extraction process in consultation with a third reviewer. The data were summarized in tables and by narrative synthesis.

RESULTS: From the 2153 abstracts and titles screened, 12 were included in the analysis. The most common types of ICTs used were communication technologies (eg, phone, video, and SMS text messages) and mobile apps. The intervention goals varied widely across studies; the most common goal was reducing risky behaviors, followed by addressing cognitive functioning, providing emotional support, providing vital resources, and reducing anxiety. Most studies (9/11, 82%) focused on the feasibility of interventions. Almost all studies reported high levels of acceptability (8/9, 89%) and moderate to high frequency of use (5/6, 83%). The principal challenges were related to technical problems such as the need to replace phones, issues with data services, and phone charging.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate the emerging role of ICTs in the delivery of mental health services to YEH and that there is a high level of acceptability based on early feasibility studies. However, our results should be interpreted cautiously, considering the limited number of studies included in the analysis and the elevated levels of dropout. There is a need to advance efficacy and effectiveness research in this area with larger and longer studies.


PMID:36645703 | DOI:10.2196/41939

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