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Mental health is a serious issue that affects people of all ages, but is especially prevalent amongst college age youth. In the 2020-2021 school year, researchers found that around 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health condition, such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder. Many digital interventions have been innovated in order to help address this issue. These range in type and functionality from teletherapy to medication tracking applications. Some of these digital interventions include social features that allow users to interact with other users, friends, family, or doctors; however, having social features in a mental health application inherently requires some form of disclosure of having a condition, creating, what we call, the dilemma of disclosure. In this thesis, we build off of Pape Traore 2023's fitness tracking app, Sprout, to develop Sprout V2. Sprout V2 is a mood tracking mobile app that supports privacy and incentivizes use by rewarding tracking behaviors with growth of a garden visualization. By keeping users in touch with their current emotional state, the approach aims to increase emotional intelligence and broader mental health. We ran a 3 week long study with 24 Dartmouth College undergraduates. We divided users into 3 groups of 8 that had access to different features of Sprout V2. We had a control group with no social features, a group that was able to interact with strangers, and a group that was able to interact with friends. We found that user engagement was significantly higher for users in the group with friends and that they rarely misrepresented the true mood they were feeling in the app. We also devise several other design implications based on a mix of user interviews and surveys. These findings can help to inform the design of future mental health tracking apps, including further research on digital interventions to help those with serious mental illnesses.
Westphal, Daniel Earl, "The Dilemma of Disclosure: Designing Interpersonal Informatics Tools for Mood Tracking" (2023). Computer Science Senior Theses. 2.