Project Immerse

Project Immerse is the research project funded by the Medical Research Council’s Proximity to Discovery fund. The project aims are to identify how immersive technologies can be used to support the mental health needs of adolescents.

The use of immersive technology for mental health is in its infancy, but it is already offering promise as established in early trials into its use for youth social anxiety disorder, depression and substance use disorders.

Our project seeks to build on the current body of research and includes a number of phases. The project as a whole will seek to co-design and test the efficacy of using virtual reality as an approach for supporting the mental health and wellbeing needs of our young people and schools.

The project aims

Our primary aim is to reduce the risk of poor mental health in symptomatic young people.

  • To co-design across multiple stakeholders an immersive technology solution for use in supporting young people with their mental health needs
  • Understand the concerns and vision for how this technology could be an approach, alongside others, to support youth mentalhealth.
  • Create a cross-sectoral and city-wide collaboration to understand the feasibility and acceptability.

Summary of research

What’s been done…
The project as a whole will take a number of months to complete with a number of phases.

Phase 1 – Priority Setting and Co-Design
Phase 1 is underway and has focused on bringing together a number of diverse stakeholders across the city region to understand where the focus of the project should be, what the challenges are and set priorities for the project.

As part of this activity the Immerse project has engaged with mental health clinicians and psychologists to understand the opportunity and barriers that immersive technology creates and to sure that clinical outcomes and safety measures are considered within the research.

The resulting outcome from the initial research is the creation of a prototype technology to be tested within the target audience for initial feedback, this will be done with both young people and teachers will be undertaken to help shape the content and understand the efficacy of the approach. Once feedback has been collated the prototype will be evolved and taken into Phase 2.

Phase 2 – Controlled testing
In phase 2 the prototype will be distributed to a small number of specially recruited participants to trial the solution at home for a number of weeks. Data and feedback from this initial trial will be feedback into the development of the prototype for further evolution prior to roll out into Phase 3.

Phase 3 – Acceptability and Feasibility Testing
This final phase of the initial research programme is ultimately to trial the final prototype within schools. This will enable the research to understand the acceptance and validity of the solution and any implications around the distribution and resources required for its effectiveness.

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