Web-based health intervention for young people who have a parent with a mental illness: Delphi study among potential future users

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BACKGROUND: Young people who have a parent with a mental illness face elevated risks to their mental health and well-being. However, they may not have access to appropriate interventions. Web-based interventions may reach and meet the needs of this at-risk group, yet their preferences regarding the features of this medium are unknown.

OBJECTIVE: This study sought to determine the utility of a Web-based intervention to meet the needs of young people who have a parent with a mental illness and their perspectives regarding the types of features of such a website.

METHODS: A systematic, 2-round Delphi study was employed to solicit the views of 282 young people aged 16 to 21 years (Round 1, n=14; Round 2, n=268) from urban and regional settings in Australia who self-reported that their parent has a mental illness. "Regional" was used to refer to nonurban participants in the study. After ascertaining whether a Web-based intervention was warranted, Web-based intervention features were identified, including how the site might be facilitated, topics, duration and frequency, and the nature of the professional contact. The extent to which young people agreed on the importance of these factors was assessed. Differences and similarities across gender and location were investigated. A mixed method analytic framework was employed using thematic analysis as well as 2-way between-groups analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) controlling for age and chi-square test of independence analysis.

RESULTS: Both rounds highlighted a strong preference for a Web-based intervention. Consensus was reached for a professionally monitored site, young people and professionals having equal input into the weekly facilitated sessions (eg, sharing the lead role in discussions or deciding on relevant session content), unlimited time access, 1-hour, open discussion, weekly sessions over 6 weeks, psychoeducation about mental illness, and considerations for the management of safety violations. There were significant main effects of location type and several of the preferred features for a Web-based intervention for young people who have a parent with a mental illness. However, effect sizes were small to moderate, limiting practical application.

CONCLUSIONS: Young people aged 16 to 21 years indicated a need for a professionally monitored, psychoeducational, Web-based intervention, with input from professional facilitators and other young people who have a parent with a mental illness, in addition to recommendations to external resources. These findings may inform the development of future Web-based interventions for this highly vulnerable group.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10158
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2018


  • Delphi studies
  • early medical intervention
  • internet
  • preventative health
  • Web-based intervention
  • youth

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