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Adolescent Digital Mental Health

Anxiety disorders are the most common class of psychopathology among youth, with nearly a quarter of adolescents meeting 12-month diagnostic criteria. There is evidence that anxiety prevention programs can be effective for youth; however, they are not widely available or accessible, particularly among underserved populations where need is greatest. Novel approaches to increase engagement in and access to interventions that prevent the development and impact of anxiety disorders are needed. The goal is to partner with adolescents, providers and community partners to co-design and evaluate a technology-enabled prevention service for anxiety for adolescents. The community-academic partnership fostered for this research is between the Oak Park Public Library and Northwestern University. 

The PI is Ashley A. Knapp, PhD.

Community-Academic Partnership

The teen services program at the Oak Park Public Library is a program specifically designed for teens and by teens that focuses on the social-emotional and academic development of youth in communities in West/Near West Chicago neighborhoods and Western Suburban Cook County. The program is directed by Robert Simmons (the director of Social Services and Public Safety) and led by Stephen Jackson (manager of Teen Services) and Darcel Washington (Teen Services coordinator). Within the last couple years, Simmons has worked with Chicago-area organizations to extend the library’s social services to include mental health services. After learning about this, Ashley Knapp, PhD, reached out to Simmons to discuss the potential of a partnership. At the initial meetings between Simmons, Knapp, Jackson and library executive director David Seleb, it became apparent that the community and research teams shared the common mission of provision of accessible, evidence-based mental health resources to Chicago-area youth and that there was high potential for partnership around designing accessible mental health resources for those youth who most experience health inequities. To support the design and testing of a technology-enabled prevention service for youth anxiety to be embedded within the teen services program at the library, Knapp applied for and received a Career Development Award through the National Institute of Mental Health with the support of Simmons and the Oak Park Public Library. This grant supports the participant-engaged work and software development of the technology-enabled prevention service. Most recently, Simmons and Knapp received a seed grant through Northwestern University to form and convene a teen advisory board and an adult community advisory board to oversee project activities, as well as to support the role of a teen investigator to be part of the project’s investigative team.

Project Name

  • Technology-Enabled Prevention Service for Adolescent Anxiety 

Community Partners

  • Rob Simmons, MA
  • Stephen Jackson, BS
  • Darcel Washington, BS
  • Oak Park Public Library


  • National Institutes of Mental Health, K01MH121854
  • Northwestern University’s Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities, Community-Engaged Research Partnership Development Seed Grant

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