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BACKGROUND: Despite the high prevalence of common mental disorders in adolescents and young adults, and their association with poor health and socio-economic outcomes throughout the lifespan, many young people do not seek or receive help for such disorders. There is growing interest in the community sector in supporting mental health in young people; however, there is little by way of experimental research in this area. During the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, we designed an online cultural experience to reduce anxiety and depression and support mental health in people aged 16-24. METHODS/DESIGN: The O-ACE POP (Online Active Community Engagement Proof of Principle) study is a UK-based online randomised controlled trial of an online cultural experience named Ways of Being, involving human centred narratives and viewpoints, compared with a typical museum website (the Ashmolean Museum). We aim to compare efficacy on  affect,  symptoms of epression and anxiety, flourishing and loneliness as well as investigating potential mechanisms of action. DISCUSSION: The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a unique opportunity to design an innovative approach to supporting mental health in young adults. Findings derived from this study will allow us to evaluate the efficacy of this intervention and will inform the design of studies to further refine the resource and test it further. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT04663594. Registered on 11 December 2020 (submitted in same form 27 November 2020). Protocol v1.0: 27 November 2020. Date recruitment began: 4 December 2020. Recruitment complete (estimate): February 2021.

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Anxiety, Culture, Depression, Experimental medicine, Randomised controlled trial, Web-based intervention, Youth, Adolescent, COVID-19, Communicable Disease Control, Humans, Mental Health, Museums, Pandemics, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, SARS-CoV-2, Treatment Outcome