Drs. Raymond Lam, Jill Murphy and Erin Michalak have been awarded $1.64 million over five years (2023-2028) by CIHR’s Team Grant- GACD 2021 NCD risk prevention across the life course program, which will support the development of an app to promote and support mental well-being among youth in Vietnam. The Youth Promotion of Resilience Involving Mental E-health (Y-PRIME) study is a partnership with Vietnam’s Institute of Population, Health and Development (PHAD), researchers from UBC, Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the University of Melbourne, youth leaders at Foundry BC and the APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health.

The Y-PRIME study is aligned with the strategic objectives and priorities of the APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health and UBC’s Research for Equity in Mental Health in the Asia Pacific – Digital (REMAP-D) cluster. It will build on the work of both initiatives, as both the Digital Hub and REMAP-D aim to improve access to evidence-based support for mental health and well-being in the Asia Pacific region, especially through the use of digital technologies. Youth are a priority population under the APEC Roadmap to Promote Mental Wellness in a Healthy Asia Pacific, which was drafted by the Digital Hub and endorsed at APEC meetings in 2020. Youth, including LGBTQ2S+, racialized and other equity-seeking youth populations, are also recognized as a population that experiences substantial barriers to mental health care across the region.

Dr. Jill Murphy

“There is a critical gap in access to mental health promotion, prevention and support among youth worldwide, especially in low and middle-income countries like Vietnam,” says Dr. Murphy, a Research Associate in the Department of Psychiatry and Executive Director of the APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health. “Working with research, government and youth partners in Vietnam, Y-PRIME will respond to this gap by collaboratively adapting and testing the implementation and outcomes of a mental health app that will promote mental well-being among diverse youth.”

Y-PRIME is an important and timely initiative for several reasons. First, this project builds on a decade-long collaboration between Dr. Murphy, researchers at PHAD in Vietnam, SFU and the University of Melbourne, which has led to advancements in policy and practice for community-based adult depression care in the country.

“The longstanding history of collaboration shows there is great potential for this implementation study to have a real impact among youth in Vietnam,” says Dr. Murphy. “This implementation science study will provide evidence to partners in the Vietnamese government to support the scale-up of the app to secondary schools throughout Vietnam and also provide evidence that can help to inform similar initiatives across the region.”

This project will also engage youth in Vietnam not only in the adaptation and design of the app, but also in capacity-building activities with the support of peers at Foundry BC. Awareness about mental health in Vietnam has historically been low but is increasing, and youth are enthusiastic about championing mental health and well-being, while developing life and self-management skills.

Participation in this study via the Vietnam Youth Advisory Council (V-YAC) will allow youth to be at the forefront of a push for improved mental health and well-being support in the country, in a way that reflects their experiences and needs. In British Columbia, the participation of members of Foundry BC’s Youth Advisory Council also presents a unique and valuable opportunity for local youth mental health leaders to engage in an international collaboration and to build research capacity in the field of global mental health.

Dr. Raymond Lam

“Many low- and middle-income countries recognize that digital health solutions are important tools for mental health care because they do not have the capacity to provide in-person mental health care for this huge need,” says Dr. Lam, lead researcher of the REMAP-D cluster and Director of UBC’s Mood Disorders Centre. “But the same is true for higher-income countries like Canada. Even though this study is conducted in Vietnam, the lessons we learn will be informative for digital health implementation here.”

For more information about this study, please contact Dr. Jill Murphy: jill.murphy@ubc.ca