A mental health storytelling intervention using transmedia to engage latinas: Grounded theory analysis of participants' perceptions of the story's main character

Mary Sue V. Heilemann, Adrienne Martinez, Patricia D. Soderlund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Transmedia storytelling was used to attract English-speaking Latina women with elevated symptoms of depression and anxiety to engage in an intervention that included videos and a webpage with links to symptom management resources. However, a main character for the storyline who was considered dynamic, compelling, and relatable by the target group was needed. Objective: We conducted interviews with 28 English-speaking Latinas (target group) with elevated symptoms of depression or anxiety who participated in an Internet-accessible transmedia storytelling intervention. The objective of this study was to examine participants' perceptions of the lead character of the story. Development of this character was informed by deidentified data from previous studies with members of the target group. Critique of the character from a panel of therapists informed editing, as did input from women of the target group. Methods: All interviews were conducted via telephone, audio-recorded, and transcribed. Data analysis was guided by grounded theory methodology. Results: Participants embraced the main character, Catalina, related to her as a person with an emotional life and a temporal reality, reported that they learned from her and wanted more episodes that featured her and her life. Grounded theory analysis led to the development of one category (She “just felt so real”: relating to Catalina as a real person with a past, present, and future) with 4 properties. Properties included (1) relating emotionally to Catalina's vulnerability, (2) recognizing shared experiences, (3) needing to support others while simultaneously lacking self-support, and (4) using Catalina as a springboard for imagining alternative futures. Participants found Catalina's efforts to pursue mental health treatment to be meaningful and led them to compare themselves to her and consider how they might pursue treatment themselves. Conclusions: When creating a story-based mental health intervention to be delivered through an app, regardless of type, careful development of the main character is valuable. Theoretical guidance, previous deidentified data from the target group, critique from key stakeholders and members of the target group, and preliminary testing are likely to enhance the main character's relatability and appropriateness, which can increase sustained engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere10028
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded in part by an Intramural Grant from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Nursing and by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute for Nursing Research T32 NR007077 (for PDS).

Publisher Copyright:
© MarySue V Heilemann, Adrienne Martinez, Patricia D Soderlund.


  • Anxiety
  • Cell phone
  • Depression
  • EHealth
  • Internet
  • Mental health
  • Mood disorders
  • Smartphone
  • Transmedia storytelling


Dive into the research topics of 'A mental health storytelling intervention using transmedia to engage latinas: Grounded theory analysis of participants' perceptions of the story's main character'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this