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Globally, most young people living with mental health conditions lack access to mental health care but have access to a mobile device. The growing access to mobile devices in South Africa has the potential to increase access to mental health care services through digital platforms. However, uptake of digital mental health interventions may be hampered by several factors, such as privacy, confidentiality, informed consent, and affordability. This study identified the prospects and challenges of implementing a mobile phone-based mental health intervention for young people in Ingwavuma area. Data were collected from 93 young people in three villages purposefully selected in Ingwavuma area. Participants included in the study were aged 16-24. Data were collected through a questionnaire. Thematic and descriptive analysis was performed on the qualitative and quantitative data, respectively. Mental health education was low, with only 22% of participants having received prior education on mental health. About 50% of the participants had come across a mental health app, but none of them had used any of these apps; 87% of participants had Internet access; 60% preferred to use social media to contact a health worker; and 92% suggested that use of digital apps would improve mental health literacy among young people. Barriers to access of digital mental health interventions were identified as the high cost of data, restrictive religious beliefs, limited privacy, lack of native languages on most digital platforms, low digital literacy, and complicated user interface. In uMkhanyakude, uptake of digital mental health apps among the young people was low. We recommend that, developers create context-specific digital applications catered for young people from different cultural backgrounds. Socio-economic issues such as affordability also need to be addressed in developing these tools.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Environ Res Public Health

Publication Date





South Africa, adolescents, apps, digital, mental health, rural, social media, young people, Humans, Adolescent, Mental Health, South Africa, Mental Disorders, Mental Health Services, Cell Phone