Overview of the Staying Connected Trial

Social isolation is a known predictor of poor mental health and may also be a cause. More than 50% of Australians own an internet-enabled mobile device and research shows young people in particular are very comfortable using their mobile devices for their mental health needs. While a number of online solutions exist for young people, they do not provide immediate tracking and monitoring.

This world-first project aims to use mobile sensor technology to reduce social isolation among young people. Using Bluetooth, this app will track social interactions, detect social withdrawal, facilitate connections and provide mental health advice as required. Social isolation is strongly associated with poor mental health and suicide.

Suicide is the most common cause of death for Australians aged 15-44 and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety are increasing.

Following a 3-5 year development and trial period to ensure clinical efficacy, this app could improve, and potentially save, the lives of up to 400,000 Australians per year.

Bluetooth will enable young people, and possibly their clinicians or carers, to detect the quality and quantity of social interactions in the real world and monitor when these may change in real time. This information enables users to recognise social isolation as it occurs. It also enables the delivery of a stepped care system where friends and family are encouraged and empowered to make contact and users are directed to seek clinical help as required.

Mobile sensor technology has developed immensely in recent years and the interdisciplinary team at the Black Dog Institute is ideally positioned to translate this exciting new technology to the domain of mental health. The Black Dog Institute has a track record of developing mental health apps with proven clinical efficacy and with existing collaborations with R U OK? Day and CSIRO we have the capacity to implement the next generation of eHealth technology.

Interactive technology used in the trial

Mobile sensor technology

Black Dog Institute - Staying Connected

Meet the researcher – Dr Mark Larsen

The Program



Dr Tjeerd Boonstra
Dr Mark Larsen
Dr Ang Li
Dr Bridianne O’Dea
Professor Helen Christensen


NHMRC John Cade Fellowship APP1056964
Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre