A social media group cognitive behavioral therapy intervention to prevent depression in perinatal youth: Stakeholder interviews and intervention design

Anupa Gewali, Alana Lopez, Kristin Dachelet, Elise Healy, Marimirca Jean-Baptiste, Holly Harridan, Yolanda Evans, Jennifer A. Unger, Amritha Bhat, Darius Tandon, Keshet Ronen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Adolescents and young adults aged <25 years (youth) are at a higher risk of perinatal depression than older adults, and they experience elevated barriers to in-person care. Digital platforms such as social media offer an accessible avenue to deliver group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to perinatal youth. Objective: We aim to develop the Interactive Maternal Group for Information and Emotional Support (IMAGINE) intervention, a facilitated social media group CBT intervention to prevent perinatal depression in youth in the United States, by adapting the Mothers and Babies (MB) course, an evidence-based in-person group CBT intervention. In this study, we report perspectives of youth and health care providers on perinatal youths' mental health needs and document how they informed IMAGINE design. Methods: We conducted 21 semistructured in-depth individual interviews with 10 pregnant or postpartum youths aged 14-24 years and 6 health care workers. All interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using deductive and inductive approaches to characterize perceptions of challenges and facilitators of youth perinatal mental health. Using a human-centered design approach, stakeholder perspectives were incorporated into the IMAGINE design. We classified MB adaptations to develop IMAGINE according to the Framework for Modification and Adaptation, reporting the nature, timing, reason, and goal of the adaptations. Results: Youth and health care workers described stigma associated with young pregnancy and parenting, social isolation, and lack of material resources as significant challenges to youth mental wellness. They identified nonjudgmental support, peer companionship, and access to step-by-step guidance as facilitators of youth mental wellness. They endorsed the use of a social media group to prevent perinatal depression and recommended that IMAGINE facilitate peer support, deliver content asynchronously to accommodate varied schedules, use a confidential platform, and facilitate the discussion of topics beyond the MB curriculum, such as navigating support resources or asking medical questions. IMAGINE was adapted from MB to accommodate stakeholder recommendations and facilitate the transition to web-based delivery. Content was tailored to be multimodal (text, images, and video), and the language was shortened and simplified. All content was designed for asynchronous engagement, and redundancy was added to accommodate intermittent access. The structure was loosened to allow the intervention facilitator to respond in real time to topics of interest for youth. A social media platform was selected that allows multiple conversation channels and conceals group member identity. All adaptations sought to preserve the fidelity of the MB core components. Conclusions: Our findings highlight the effect of stigmatization of young pregnancy and social determinants of health on youth perinatal mental health. Stakeholders supported the use of a social media group to create a supportive community and improve access to evidence-based depression prevention. This study demonstrates how a validated intervention can be tailored to this unique group. 10.2196/26188.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere26188
JournalJMIR Mental Health
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Adolescent
  • Depression
  • Group
  • Mental health
  • Mobile phone
  • Perinatal
  • Postpartum
  • Pregnancy
  • Social media
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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