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Phil Jenkins Award for Innovation in Depression Treatment

In 2011, the University of Michigan received a gift from local business entrepreneur and community leader Phil F. Jenkins to stimulate creative ideas about ways to improve treatment or self-management of depression. The award is intended to empower students and faculty to bring creative ideas to life, such as new diagnostic tests, treatment strategies, clinical monitoring approaches, or emerging products that would improve overall wellness.

2014 Amanda Leggett
Prevention of Depression in Older Adults with Sleep Disturbance: Activating the Circadian Rhythm with Light
2014 Daphne C. Watkins
Depression in Black College Men: Tailoring an Intervention on Race, Masculinities, and Mood
2012 Danielle M. Novick
Mood Self-Monitoring and Text-Messaging: A Unique Approach to Understanding and Improving Mental Health Treatment Engagement and Adherence


Amanda Legget, Ph.D.
Prevention of Depression in Older Adults with Sleep Disturbance:

Activating the Circadian Rhythm with Light (2014)

Symptoms of depression in late life are costly, and are associated with considerable distress, disability, health service use, and risk for suicide.  However, prevention strategies for depression lag behind those for other medical disorders, particularly among older adults.  With support from the Phil Jenkins Award, Dr. Leggett will be aiming to target sleep disturbance as a preventive intervention for depression.  Sleep problems are commonly experienced by older adults and put individuals at increased risk for the development of depression.  In a first step of her project, Dr. Leggett will conduct a focus group that determines the feasibility of bright light glasses called “re-timers” as a sleep disturbance preventive intervention and identifies potential barriers and challenges to compliance among older adults.  Re-timer glasses are an innovative new technology that uses bright light therapy delivered through eye glasses to regulate the circadian rhythm.  Next daily use of the glasses will be piloted among older adults with sleep disturbance and mild symptoms of depression.  If the “re-timer” glasses can improve sleep and prevent depressive symptomatology, they could be incorporated into older adult’s daily routine and help them self-manage their sleep and mood- ultimately preventing severe distress before it starts and reducing costly health service use.        

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Daphne C. Watkins, Ph.D.
Depression in Black College Men: Tailoring an Intervention on Race, Masculinities,
and Mood (2014)

Black men experience disproportionately higher levels of psychological distress due to their exposure to a greater frequency and severity of psychosocial stressors compared to other groups. The frequency and severity of psychosocial stressors are exacerbated by other socio-demographic factors (i.e., age, household income, marital status, education level) that can influence the emotional and psychological health of black men. Likewise, men who are grappling with multiple identities (e.g., sexual orientation, racial/ethnic minorities, socioeconomic challenges, etc.) face particular challenges with the adjustments needed to succeed in college settings. Studies have chronicled the psychological distress of black men as a result of discrimination, negative attitudes toward the criminal justice system, racial and cultural identity, depression, violence, and issues involving their masculine gender norms. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of distressed college-aged men, as demonstrated by the media reports of their violent acts towards themselves and others.

The ability to access an Internet-based (online) setting 24 hours a day provides a safe educational and social support setting, particularly for young black men who may face mental health and masculine identity issues. As a part of the online community, users can be more sensitive to the problems experienced by other young black men, a gender and cultural norm that may not be well received during face-to-face interactions. In addition, online communities can encourage young black men to offer stories and support for one another as they express their emotional and psychological health successes and failures. ​

Dr. Watkins’ project is titled “Depression in Black College Men: Tailoring an Intervention on Race, Masculinities and Mood,” and involves testing the feasibility of ​ an intervention she developed called the Young black men, masculinities, and mental health (or, "YBMen") project. The YBMen project is a five-week, Facebook-based intervention for college-aged black men that will address the link between hegemonic masculinity and poor mental health. The goal of this Phil Jenkins award is to further refine, focus, and implement the YBMen project with a sample of​black college men in southeastern Michigan. Specific aims include collecting survey data from black college men about hegemonic masculine ideologies and mental health; tailoring the current YBMen intervention so that it incorporates the findings from these survey data; and implementing the modified YBMen intervention.

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Danielle M. Novick, Ph.D.
Mood Self-Monitoring and Text-Messaging: A Unique Approach to Understanding and Improving Mental Health Treatment Engagement and Adherence  (2012)

Dr. Novick’s project will identify ways that current technology might allow individuals to better monitor their moods, increase their treatment engagement and adherence, and also help guide mental health care providers in making more informed and personalized treatment decisions for their patients. 

The Jenkins-funded project will add a powerful new dimension to Dr. Novick’s existing research. She currently uses actigraphs to measure a person’s daily physical activity and light exposure, information that can then be used to estimate some of the body’s biological rhythms. Because many effective treatments for depression and bipolar disorder are believed to work in part by shifting, re-setting, or stabilizing the body’s biological rhythms, understanding how these rhythmic changes are connected to mood and functioning is critical to ensure treatments are successful.

For several months, actigraph-wearing research participants (recruited from the Prechter Bipolar Longitudinal study) will be prompted daily with a text message reminder to report their current mood, using their cell phone.  Integrating the text message information with actigraph data will provide “real-time” information about the relationship between an individual’s biological rhythms, daily routines and mood.

“I am very grateful to Mr. Jenkins for this award. This will allow us to use technology to develop novel ways to help individuals with depression and bipolar disorder, and hopefully encourage them to take a more active role in the management of their illnesses,” Dr. Novick says. 

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