Dr Aliza Werner-Seidler

Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales
Research Field: Adolescent mental health, depression, anxiety

Depression is the leading cause of disability among young people aged 10-19 years. Depression prevention programs based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are effective, but are not widely disseminated. Although schools are an ideal setting in which to deliver these programs at scale, offering unparalleled access to a captive audience, they have not been adopted. Dr Werner-Sidler’s research spans clinical psychology, e-health, and implementation science to investigate the implementation of digital evidence-based mental health prevention programs in school environments. She has designed a new approach for preventing depression that appeals to adolescents – by targeting insomnia.

Insomnia is a major risk factor for depression, but unlike depression, it is not associated with stigma. She has also developed a Smartphone application (Sleep Ninja) which is a gamified intervention based on CBT. The app can be completed flexibly and does not rely on internet connection, drain phone battery or require data for download. She recently completed a pre-post pilot trial (N=50) with results showing that app use leads to reduced insomnia and depression symptoms. This intervention is now being taken to trial in 400 schools. If effective, she will use implementation science principles to support the wide-scale role out of this intervention across Australia.