Leveraging Digital Therapeutics to Expand Student Access to Mental Health Treatments

A research team led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recently received a $3.8 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to test a well-established and evidence-based digitaltherapeutic solutionThe five-year funding was awarded for researchers to evaluate the use of digital platform in treating common mental and behavioral health issues among college students including depression, anxiety and eating disorders, and will include approximately 8,000 students at 20 colleges, universities and community colleges. SilverCloud Health, a global leader in delivering mental health interventions at scale, is the digital therapeutic platform for this research initiative. 


This study is critical in expanding much-needed mental and behavioral health resources to an increasingly underserved population. A 2017 American College Health Association Survey of 63,000 college students at 92 schools found that: 

  • Two in five described themselves as being so depressed that they “struggled to function.”  
  • Three in five reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety” during the previous year. 
  • From 2009 through 2015, the number of college students visiting counseling centers increased by 30 percent. 

However, according to the study’s principal investigator Denise E. Wilfley, PhD, Scott Rudolph University Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Washington University Center for Healthy Weight and Wellness: “Not enough services are available to meet the mental health needs of students on college campuses.” She added: We’ve been in contact with many counseling centers across a number of college campuses, and they tell us that increasing numbers of students are struggling with many more problems, including severe problems, and counselors just can’t see them all. Without timely interventions, these problems can have lasting effects on students’ health, social, educational and economic outcomes.” 

The digital mental health solutions used in the study, powered by SilverCloud Health, have been delivered at scale globally across organizations, including health systems, insurers and higher education, to address mental health concerns In addition, SilverCloud Health personalizes treatment by helping to address other problems that may co-occur with depression, anxiety or an eating disorder such as sleeping difficulties, coping with grief and anger management. According to Dr. Derek Richards, Chief Science Officer at SilverCloud Health: This current research collaboration will significantly build on the existing empirical base that supports SilverCloud Health interventions. 

With a rapidly growing demand for mental health services at higher education institutions worldwide, digital therapeutics can help empower students to self-manage their mental health and well-being. SilverCloud Health provides a secure, anonymous platform developed by clinicians. The evidence-based programs center around 16+ years of scientific research in collaboration with leading academic and clinical institutions worldwide and consist of 30+ programs that use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) principles to treat and alleviate symptoms. Furthermore, digital therapeutic solutions can effectively tackle many of the existing barriers to mental health resources, including a lack of clinical resources, privacy issues, geographic isolation and societal stigma concerns.   

As a result, digital therapeutics have the potential to transform the way resources are optimized while delivering positive clinical outcomes. Digital platforms can also help to automate the process of care delivery triage, allowing providers to focus resources on patients that require face-to-face treatment. These tools are primed to play a valuable role in improving early assessment and intervention for patients at risk, potentially speeding up access to necessary treatment resources.  

In fact, SilverCloud Health has achieved a 65% clinically-significant reduction in symptom scores as well as a 10x capacity improvement SilverCloud said “We are proud to work with the entire research team to help shrink the alarming gap between the critical need for comprehensive mental health services and the resources available to college and university students today. 

To learn more about how SilverCloud Health provides accessible, scalable, digital behavioral healthcare and delivers measurable results for our partners and the individuals who use our programs, please visit our website at http://www.silvercloudhealth.com.  

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Kathryn Schooling

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