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BACKGROUND: 'POD Adventures' is a gamified problem-solving intervention delivered via smartphone app, and supported by non-specialist counsellors for a target population of secondary school students in India during the COVID-19 pandemic. AIMS: To evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of undertaking a randomised controlled trial of POD Adventures when delivered online with telephone support from counsellors. METHOD: We conducted a parallel, two-arm, individually randomised pilot-controlled trial with 11 secondary schools in Goa, India. Participants received either the POD Adventures intervention delivered over 4 weeks or usual care comprising information about local mental health services and national helplines. Outcomes were assessed at two timepoints: baseline and 6 weeks post-randomisation. RESULTS: Seventy-nine classroom sensitisation sessions reaching a total of 1575 students were conducted. Ninety-two self-initiated study referrals (5.8%) were received, but only 11 participants enrolled in the study. No intervention arm participants completed the intervention. Outcomes at 6 weeks were not available for intervention arm participants (n = 5), and only four control arm participants completed outcomes. No qualitative interviews or participant satisfaction measures were completed because participants could not be reached by the study team. CONCLUSIONS: Despite modifications to address barriers arising from COVID-19 restrictions, online delivery was not feasible in the study context. Low recruitment and missing feasibility and acceptability data make it difficult to draw conclusions about intervention engagement and indicative clinical outcomes. Prior findings showing high uptake, adherence and engagement with POD Adventures when delivered in a school-based context suggest that an online study and delivery posed the biggest barriers to study participation and engagement.

Original publication




Journal article


BJPsych Open

Publication Date





Randomised controlled trial, anxiety disorders, information technologies, low- and middle-income countries, psychosocial interventions