Preventing Depression of Chinese American Adolescents through Mobile Health Application


The project aims to address a critical research gap and important public health problem. Chinese American adolescents (CAAs) are at elevated risk for mental health concerns, including depression and suicidal ideation. This public health issue is compounded by the cultural barriers to mental health care experienced by Chinese Americans. Unfortunately, research in this area is severely limited, with only 1 RCT in the past three decades focused on depression prevention in Asian American adolescents. And, that study did not consider culturally specific elements. 

To enhance the rigor of prior work in this area, the investigative team plans to develop a new mobile health application (Relax, Reflect, Empower [RRE]) to deliver individualized and culturally tailored content aimed at preventing depression and improving well-being among CAAs. One innovative aspect of RRE is that it will recommend personalized strategies based on Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Critical Consciousness (CC).  

MBCT has been found effective in prevention and management of depression and general anxiety in various populations. MBCT is instrumental in alleviating mild depression among Chinese adolescents. Development of CC will compliment MBCT. CC refers to the ability to critically examine social conditions and feel empowered to change such conditions in the context of social injustice and inequality. CC involves critical reflection (e.g., awareness and analysis of structural problems) and critical action (e.g., speak up, self-advocate, seek support). CC is associated to lower depression and higher self-esteem of college students of color. CC helps minority adolescents feel a greater sense of agency (as opposed to helplessness) in oppressive experiences. Thus, CC can empower CAAs to move beyond the myth of a model minority by becoming assertive, standing up to discrimination and hate crimes, and striving for positive social change. 

This would be the first app-based system aimed at reducing risk for depression in CAAs, which further enhances the unique nature of the project. After RRE is developed, the team will conduct a pilot RCT with CAAs (aged 14-18) from the community. 

Funded by the NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21) awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In collaboration with Dr. Justin Chen, consultant, psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Project Team

Chieh Li
Project Director & Principal Investigator
Northeastern University

Huijun Li
Principle Investigator
Florida A&M University

Shengli Dong
Principle Investigator
Florida State University

Alisa Lincoln - Northeastern University

Alisa K. Lincoln
Northeastern University

Tad Hirsch
Northeastern University