York researchers publish paper on effectiveness of mindfulness virtual community for undergraduate students

A person in meditation pose

York University Professors Christo El Morr, Farah Ahmed and Paul Ritvo from the School of Health Policy and Management and the School of Kinesiology and Health Science, Faculty of Health, have published a paper discussing the design of a mindfulness virtual community (MVC) for undergraduate students.

The paper “Design of a Mindfulness Virtual Community: A Focus Group Analysis” presents findings of a student focus group that gathered perspectives of students on the concept of MVC and using it to address symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.

Students also offered feedback on the elements within the MVC, including video-based psychoeducation and mindfulness practice, discussion forums and video conferencing. Such design refinements were critical to enhance the relevance and adoption of interventions by the targeted populations.

Three major themes and sub-themes emerged from the study:

  • perceived concerns: potential loss of personal encounter and relationships, fear of cyber bullying, engagement challenge, and privacy and distraction;
  • perceived advantages: anonymity and privacy, convenience and flexibility, filling a gap, and togetherness; and
  • desired features: user-centered design, practical trustworthy support, and online moderation.

The gained insights refined the design features for the MVC, said researchers.

Authors of the study report that the extensive mental health needs in the student population and the limited availability of mindfulness certified professionals set limits to a brick-and-mortar delivery model for mindfulness. On the other hand, the authors note that access to virtual communities enable and empower patients to become active participants in managing their own health conditions. This paper presents the findings of the first phase of a project that aims to generate robust evidence on the effectiveness on a mindfulness virtual community.

This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) eHealth Innovation Partnership Program (eHIPP), in partnership with Industry partner ForAHealthyMe.com.