The Meridian Project: Moderated online social therapy for supporters of young people suffering from depression and anxiety

Presentation First Author: 
Mario Alvarez-Jimenez

Many mental health problems have their initial onset in late adolescence when the majority of young people reside with their families. Despite this, family members often have little knowledge of the nature of the disorders they are grappling with, or how to most effectively respond to the young person’s changed behaviour. As a result, carers face a wide range of unmet needs and burdens which result in increased rates of depression, stress, and financial pressures. In addition, addressing the needs of families has direct implications for the long-term outcome of young people themselves. Therefore, it is critical to identify effective ways of reducing relatives’ stress and to increase the capacity of the family to respond adaptively to the young person.

There are few services available for carers of young people with mental health problems and even when specialist carer programs are established they are notoriously difficult to sustain. Thus, innovative and sustainable approaches are needed to address unmet carer need.


The aims of this project were: (i) To develop a sustainable, innovative and effective online social media based intervention (Meridian) for families and friends of young people aged 15-25 suffering from depression and anxiety; and to (ii) evaluate the acceptability, safety, and initial treatment benefits of the online intervention.


Meridian was iteratively developed by a multidisciplinary team of experts (computer programmers, professional writers, experts on human computer interaction, artists and clinical psychologists) following participatory design principles through a process of regular testing and consultation with end-users.

Following the development phase, 30 family members were recruited into a single group, 3-month, follow-up study designed to establish the safety, acceptability and preliminary clinical benefits of Meridian.


Meridian comprises a single web-based application integrating: (i) online social networking, (ii) interactive positive psychology-based interventions targeting families’ wellbeing and stress; and (iii) expert and peer moderation.

There were no incidents or inappropriate use of the system during the trial, with all participants reporting Meridian to be safe and confidential. There were a total of 492 individual logins (avg. >20 per person) with 66% of users logging on at least 3 times. Participants read an average of 19 therapy pages, with over 200 behavioural experiments being completed. Results on initial treatment benefits will be discussed during the presentation.


Conference Name: 
Date of Presentation: 
10th Oct 2015
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