New Mental Health Tool Is Designed By and For Youths, Young Adults
May 13, 2021
Liz Madison
Smart young man text messaging on mobile phone on the way to work on urban bridge in city in the morning

Award-winning Platform Aims to Build Everyday Resilience for Adolescents and Young Adults, Gives Caregivers Insight on How Best to Support Youth

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Scout by Sutter Health™ launches as a one-of-a-kind, virtual tool that supports youths ages 12-26 who experience anxiety and/or depression. The platform also offers the support caregivers or other trusted members of one’s circle need to care for their loved ones or family members who are navigating those mental health challenges. The non-clinical, educational tool most recently earned recognition as one of Fast Company’s 2021 World-Changing Ideas for its innovative, compassionate approach.

In a 2020 report, Mental Health America stated young people as a group are struggling most with their mental health. In the U.S., 9.7% of youth have severe major depression compared to 9.2% in last year’s data set. COVID-19 has only exacerbated the circumstances. The American Psychological Association reported that in 2020, 34% of Generation Z adults reported worse mental health, followed by Generation X at 21%. Since the pandemic, 11- to 17-year-olds are also more likely than any other age group to have severe symptoms of anxiety and depression.

How can breakthroughs occur amid these circumstances? Designers focused on feedback from youth. They heard a common request: give them a tool that speaks their language, makes communicating about their concerns easier and acts supportive rather than controlling and directive.

“Incredible things can occur when you start with empathy and ask the simplest questions: ‘What problem are young people really trying to solve?’ or ‘How can we better connect with their everyday needs?,’” said Vandana Pant, director of strategic initiatives for Sutter Health’s Design and Innovation team. “Truly transformative ideas emerge when clinicians and designers invite patients and their ecosystems into the design process. This platform is the result of that type of collaboration where human-centered inquiry, clinical expertise, thoughtful brand and copy, technology and business rigor merged to create a means of support that is personalized and yet scalable, too.”

Asian young woman and African American young man with hat and glasses share a laugh outdoors

Scout by Sutter Health™

Scout by Sutter Health™ based within the Social Emotional Learning framework, is the result of months of human-centered design research and product development that brought together youth, along with their caregivers as well as mental health experts and design innovators. The tool, which is a combination of human and digital components, helps strengthen everyday resilience and supports self-management. As a participant progresses through Scout by Sutter Health™, they will complete activities on feeling trackers, managing triggers, improving communications that may help them understand their emotions, plan for difficult times and bounce back when they stumble.

The caregiver component also helps differentiate Scout by Sutter Health™. It gives parents, families or other designated caregivers their own awareness, education and tools that are separate, yet parallel to the youth content. Sample topics for caregivers include understanding the loved one’s condition, tips on mindfulness, medication adherence and self-care.

Human, non-clinical navigators welcome youth via text or a phone call using a platform provided through technology and services company Docent Health. The participants then respond to clinically validated surveys delivered to their phones. Based on their individual responses, they receive personalized web and mobile-friendly content to support their unique needs. Focus areas include body, mind, and spirit for all participants. For those under age 18, animal personas introduce the topics. For those over 18, graphically unique icons present the topics. Sample topics include understanding symptoms, mindfulness exercises, connecting with loved ones, sleep, nutrition, physical activity and more.

“Mental health matters can have a profound effect on the entire family,” said Larry Marx, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist in child/adolescent psychiatry and general psychiatry, as well as director of integrated care for Sutter Health’s Mental Health and Addiction Care team. “When we can offer support to youth and their caregivers in tandem through an easily accessible and relatable format, it can be beneficial for all.”

Scout by Sutter Health™ is not treatment, but rather a complement to treatment. It can help bridge the gap between treatment sites, telehealth options and care facilities by providing seamless support between care visits. Scout by Sutter Health™ also serves as a validated support and resilience-building tool for youth experiencing non-clinical levels of everyday stress.

Youth and/or their caregivers can learn more about Scout by Sutter Health™ by talking to their Sutter Health provider. Pediatricians or clinical teams already giving patients mental health support refer participants. Additionally, the tool can be more widely available to others through public or private partnerships that Sutter shares with others such as employers, insurance providers, school districts, colleges or universities.

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