Background: Depression affects approximately 60% of people with aphasia 1 year post stroke and is associated with disability, lower quality of life, and mortality. Web-delivered mental health (e-mental health) programs are effective, convenient, and cost-effective for the general population and thus are increasingly used in the management of depression. However, it is unknown if such services are applicable and communicatively accessible to people with poststroke aphasia.
Objective: The aim of this study was to identify freely available e-mental health programs for depression and determine their applicability and accessibility for people with poststroke aphasia. Methods: A Web-based search was conducted to identify and review freely available e-mental health programs for depression. These programs were then evaluated in terms of their (1) general features via a general evaluation tool, (2) communicative accessibility for people with aphasia via an aphasia-specific communicative accessibility evaluation tool, and (3) empirical evidence for the general population and stroke survivors with and without aphasia. The program that met the most general evaluation criteria and aphasia-specific communicative accessibility evaluation criteria was then trialed by a small subgroup of people with poststroke aphasia.
Results: A total of 8 programs were identified. Of these, 4 had published evidence in support of their efficacy for use within the general population. However, no empirical evidence was identified that specifically supported any programs’ use for stroke survivors with or without aphasia. One evidence-based program scored at least 80% (16/19 and 16/20, respectively) on both the general and aphasia-specific communicative accessibility evaluation tools and was subject to a preliminary trial by 3 people with poststroke aphasia. During this trial, participants were either unable to independently use the program or gave it low usability scores on a post-trial satisfaction survey. On this basis, further evaluation was considered unwarranted.
Conclusions: Despite fulfilling majority of the general evaluation and aphasia-specific evaluation criteria, the highest rated program was still found to be unsuitable for people with poststroke aphasia. Thus, e-mental health programs require substantial redevelopment if they are likely to be useful to people with poststroke aphasia.