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Adolescence is an important period of development, as young people gain independence, navigate stressful situations and make important decisions. The incidence of depression peaks during adolescence, coinciding with the development of social cognition and executive function, key functions of the brain associated with decision-making. Depression can impair the development of these functions, putting depressed adolescents at a life-long disadvantage.

It is critically important to develop scalable, accessible and effective strategies to support emotional wellbeing and foster resilience among adolescents in Uganda and other low-resource settings. Digital delivery has potential to be highly scalable and accessible, offering a solution to the lack of specialist resources in low-resource environments.

This two-year project seeks to assess the acceptability and feasibility of a smartphone application to deliver Behavioural Activation therapy with support from trained peer mentors. We will first develop the intervention through consultation with adolescents and key stakeholders in Uganda, and produce a set of validated measures of cognition for use among adolescents in this context. We will then test the feasibility of the intervention among adolescents in a peri-urban area of Central Uganda.

Our team comprises a multidisciplinary group of psychologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists and economists from South Africa, Uganda, the UK and the USA. In Uganda, the study will be carried out in partnership with BRAC Uganda and the Medical Research Council (MRC)/ Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) & The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LHSTM) Uganda Research Unit.