Center for Psychosocial… Department of Child and… Research Current research…


Section of Translational Psychobiology in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry / Section for Experimental Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Study title

Promoting help-seeking using e-technology for children and adolescents with mental health problems

Project description

Most students in Germany are doing well. Even though everyday life presents many challenges, young people often already know how to deal with them successfully. At the same time, there are some children and young people who are under high strain. If stress lasts for a long time, psychological problems can develop at a young age and can manifest in dangerous alcohol consumption, problematic eating habits or depressive symptoms. However, many people affected do not seek professional help for various reasons (for example: out of shame, fear of negative reactions or because they lack important information). Instead, young people seek help online, where they feel safe because of extensive anonymity. ProHEAD uses this young people’s affinity to e-technology to give them an understanding of various offers of help.

The ProHEAD project’s (Promoting Help-seeking using E-technology for Adolescents) main goals are

  1. Strengthen children and young people so they can stay healthy.
  2. Accompany children and young people who report psychological problems such as sad feelings, eating problems or dangerous alcohol consumption.
  3. Help children and young people to seek professional assistance when needed.

ProHEAD provides several internet-based programs, enabling a wide range of help services to be offered. Tailored to the needs of children and adolescents the programs help to strengthen mental health, deal with emerging mental health problems at an early stage and facilitate access to professional help.

The project is conducted in cooperation with the Mannheim, Hamburg, Leipzig, Schwäbisch Gmünd and Marburg sites, coordinated by the central Heidelberg site. Together, the aim is to reach a total of 15,000 schoolchildren aged 12 and over. Following a school-based screening process that includes various validated questionnaires on topics such as help-seeking behavior, psychological strengths and problems or quality of life, each participant receives an individual evaluation of his or her data. Afterwards, each student is invited to participate in an online intervention. The programs offered include interventions for healthy students as well as specific programs for participants who are currently at risk for certain mental health problems. In addition, ProHEAD offers support for participants for whom, based on the survey results, professional clarification would be advisable, by encouraging them to seek professional help from psychiatrists and psychotherapists.

The Heidelberg site offers an intervention for children and young people with clinically relevant psychological problems . Half of the participants are given access to an online portal that aims to improve their active help-seeking behavior by providing information and introducing them to the professional help system. In addition to comprehensive psychoeducation, the participants receive contact information of suitable help services in their area, have access to testimonials by children and adolescents of the same age and additionally have the opportunity to ask individual questions via chat or telephone at age-appropriate times of day. Seeking professional help is encouraged through advisory support and repeated contact. The control group is given access to contact information of local help services.

In order to verify the intervention’s effectiveness, a follow-up examination is carried out one year after the school-based screening process, determining how many participants actually sought professional help.

Cooperation partners

  • PD. Dr. rer. soc. Stephanie Bauer, Dr. phil. Markus Moessner, Forschungsstelle für Psychotherapie (FOST), Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg
  • Prof. Dr. Rainer Thomasius, Universitätsklinikum Hamburg Eppendorf
  • Prof. Dr. Christine Rummel-Kluge, Universität Leipzig
  • Prof. Dr. Heike Eschenbeck, Pädagogische Hochschule Schwäbisch-Gmünd
  • Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Salize, Zentralinstitut für Seelische Gesundheit Mannheim
  • Prof. Dr. Katja Becker, Universitätsklinikum Marburg

Head of Research Project

Dr. sc. hum. Julian Koenig

Project Coordinators

  • Dr. biol. hum. Sabrina Bonnet
  • M. Sc. Sophia Lustig


  • M. Sc. Regina Richter
  • M. Ed. Stella Hammon
  • Prof. Dr. Franz Resch
  • Dipl. Psych. Peter Parzer

Funding / Sponsorship

Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Project duration