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Currently submitted to: Journal of Medical Internet Research

Date Submitted: May 28, 2020

Warning: This is an author submission that is not peer-reviewed or edited. Preprints - unless they show as "accepted" - should not be relied on to guide clinical practice or health-related behavior and should not be reported in news media as established information.

“Smartphone apps are cool, but do they help me?” A thematic analysis of adolescents’ expectations on apps to manage Nonsuicidal Self-injury

  • Anja Čuš; 
  • Julian Edbrooke-Childs; 
  • Susanne Ohmann; 
  • Paul L. Plener; 
  • Türkan Akkaya-Kalayci; 



Nonsuicidal Self-injury (NSSI) is a major mental health problem associated with negative psychosocial outcomes and it most often starts in early adolescence. Although recent technology-enabled interventions show promise in managing NSSI, they rarely consider expectations of their intended target group.


This study explored patients’ experiences, needs and preferences about future digital interventions that are delivered through smartphones.


We interviewed fifteen young females aged 12-18 who engaged in NSSI in the past year and were in contact with mental health services. The data was analysed following a thematic analysis approach and the findings were discussed in one follow up interview to include member checking.


This study identified two main themes that represent shared patterns of meaning across the interviews. The first theme Experiences of NSSI depicts the experiences and needs of young people with NSSI. The second theme App in Context portrays preferences of young people about smartphone interventions and includes adolescents’ perspectives on how technology can improve or hinder engaging with these interventions.


Young people show interest in using smartphone interventions if they recognize them as helpful, relevant for their life situation and easy to use. The authors adopt these study findings to discuss how the future NSSI and mental health interventions could be more engaging through taking into account three contexts in which mental health interventions are embedded (mental health condition, person using the intervention, and technology-related factors). The cooperation between mental health experts, human computer interaction professionals and people with lived experience is vital to advance the development of digital resources for mental health and NSSI management.


Please cite as:

Čuš A, Edbrooke-Childs J, Ohmann S, Plener PL, Akkaya-Kalayci T

“Smartphone apps are cool, but do they help me?” A thematic analysis of adolescents’ expectations on apps to manage Nonsuicidal Self-injury

JMIR Preprints. 28/05/2020:20780

DOI: 10.2196/preprints.20780


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