Exploring the perceptions of mHealth interventions for the prevention of common mental disorders in university students in Singapore: qualitative study

Alicia Salamanca-Sanabria, Ahmad Ishqi Jabir, Xiaowen Lin, Aishah Alattas, A. Baki Kocaballi, Jimmy Lee, Tobias Kowatsch, Lorainne Tudor Car*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Mental health interventions delivered through mobile health (mHealth) technologies can increase the access to mental health services, especially among university students. The development of mHealth intervention is complex and needs to be context sensitive. There is currently limited evidence on the perceptions, needs, and barriers related to these interventions in the Southeast Asian context. Objective: This qualitative study aimed to explore the perception of university students and mental health supporters in Singapore about mental health services, campaigns, and mHealth interventions with a focus on conversational agent interventions for the prevention of common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. Methods: We conducted 6 web-based focus group discussions with 30 university students and one-to-one web-based interviews with 11 mental health supporters consisting of faculty members tasked with student pastoral care, a mental health first aider, counselors, psychologists, a clinical psychologist, and a psychiatrist. The qualitative analysis followed a reflexive thematic analysis framework. Results: The following 6 main themes were identified: a healthy lifestyle as students, access to mental health services, the role of mental health promotion campaigns, preferred mHealth engagement features, factors that influence the adoption of mHealth interventions, and cultural relevance of mHealth interventions. The interpretation of our findings shows that students were reluctant to use mental health services because of the fear of stigma and a possible lack of confidentiality. Conclusions: Study participants viewed mHealth interventions for mental health as part of a blended intervention. They also felt that future mental health mHealth interventions should be more personalized and capable of managing adverse events such as suicidal ideation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere44542
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • anxiety
  • common mental disorders
  • depression
  • interventions
  • mental disorders
  • mental health
  • mHealth
  • mobile health
  • students
  • university


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