Acceptability, Use, and Safety of a Mobile Phone App (BlueIce) for Young People Who Self-Harm: Qualitative Study of Service Users’ Experience

Rebecca Grist, Joanna Porter, Paul Stallard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Self-harm is common among adolescents and is associated with a number of negative psychosocial outcomes including a higher risk of suicide. Recent reviews highlight the lack of research into specific interventions for children and young people who self-harm. Developing innovative interventions that are coproduced with individuals with lived experience and that reduce self-harm are key challenges for self-harm prevention. Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the acceptability, use, and safety of BlueIce, a mobile phone app for young people who self-harm and who are attending child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). Methods: This study is part of a mixed methods phase 1 trial of BlueIce. Young people aged 12-17 years attending specialist CAMHS were recruited. Clinicians were invited to refer young people who were self-harming or who had a history of self-harm. On consent being obtained and baseline measures taken, participants used BlueIce as an adjunct to usual care for an initial familiarization period of 2 weeks. If after this time they wanted to continue, they used BlueIce for a further 10 weeks. Semistructured interviews were conducted at postfamiliarization (2 weeks after using BlueIce) and postuse (12 weeks after using BlueIce) to assess the acceptability, use, and safety of BlueIce. We undertook a qualitative analysis using a deductive approach, and then an inductive approach, to investigate common themes. Results: Postfamiliarization interviews were conducted with 40 participants. Of these, 37 participants elected to use BlueIce, with postuse interviews being conducted with 33 participants. Following 6 key themes emerged from the data: (1) appraisal of BlueIce, (2) usability of BlueIce, (3) safety, (4) benefits of BlueIce, (5) agency and control, and (6) BlueIce less helpful. The participants reported that BlueIce was accessible, easy to use, and convenient. Many highlighted the mood diary and mood lifter sections as particularly helpful in offering a way to track their moods and offering new strategies to manage their thoughts to self-harm. No adverse effects were reported. For those who did not find BlueIce helpful, issues around motivation to stop self-harming impeded their ability to use the app. Conclusions: BlueIce was judged to be a helpful and safe way of supporting adolescents to manage thoughts of self-harming. Adolescents reported numerous benefits of using BlueIce, and all would recommend the app to other young people who were struggling with self-harm. These preliminary findings are encouraging and provide initial support for the acceptability of BlueIce as a self-help intervention used in conjunction with the traditional face-to-face therapy.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16
JournalJMIR Mental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

© Rebecca Grist, Joanna Porter, Paul Stallard. Originally published in JMIR Mental Health (, 23.02.2018. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Mental Health, is properly cited.


  • self-injurious behavior
  • mobile apps
  • adolescents
  • telemedicine
  • qualitative research
  • cognitive therapy
  • behavior therapy


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