Teen mental health in an online world

Teen mental health in an online world

The media is replete with dystopian tales of the negative effects of social media on young people. In a recent speech, Simon Stevens (chief executive of the NHS) suggested that the Government should consider introducing a ‘mental health levy’ to fund NHS treatment of problems fuelled by sites such as Facebook and Instagram. But how accurate is this picture and what does the evidence tell us? Earlier in the year, my co-author James Woollard and I set about understanding the views and experiences of young people with mental health difficulties in our book Teen Mental Health in an Online World. We combined a review of the evidence with a series of qualitative interviews and focus groups with young people. Our mission was to give space to young people’s voices and provide a useful guide to mental health and other practitioners who work with them. Contrary to what one might believe from the media, we found a mixed picture with both positive and negative effects. Our qualitative findings are reflected in a recent representative survey of 1,141 American teens age 13-17  Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal Their Experiences (Common Sense Media 2018) which uncovered some interesting insights. Firstly, most teens say that social media has a positive effect in their lives, such as making them feel less lonely. Secondly, and more relevant to our book, whilst vulnerable teens are more likely to report negative effects of social media (such as feeling left out) they are nevertheless more likely to report the positive benefits of social media in their lives, such as helping them feel less lonely and depressed. Social...
Digital resilience: how health and care practitioners can help teens with mental health difficulties

Digital resilience: how health and care practitioners can help teens with mental health difficulties

I’ve recently written a blog post and report for NHS Digital’s Widening Digital Participation Programme based on a review of the evidence along with interviews and focus groups with young people. The report focuses on digital resilience of teens with mental health difficulties. You can find the blog post here and the full report...
Connected realities – what do practitioners need to know about teens’ online lives?

Connected realities – what do practitioners need to know about teens’ online lives?

“What if we thought about the internet a resource to be deployed rather than as a problem to be solved?” (Jenkins et al, 2016, p.36)  What if we move our focus from a deficit orientated understanding of the online lives of teens to an asset-orientated approach which builds on young people’s strengths? And what does this mean for practitioners working with teens who have mental health difficulties? Perhaps there are better ways of approaching teens’ online lives that enable us to be more effective practitioners. I am endlessly intrigued by teens’ use of the internet, social media and digital technologies. It is a fascination brought about in equal parts from observing my three teenagers and from the many and various projects we do with teens at mHabitat. I am particularly curious about how health and care practitioners help teens navigate the digital sphere (or not) in their everyday work. Practitioners are worried about the impact of social media on teens, concerned about risk, and at the same time drawn to how apps could help deliver care. Meanwhile teens are frustrated about adults’ lack of understanding about their online lives and are looking for guidance and support which is often lacking. This set of disconnected realities between teens and practitioners is the subject of a book I am writing with Dr James Woollard. It is a guide for practitioners to help them explore, understand and appreciate teens’ online lives; and to enable them to incorporate this understanding into their work with adolescents affected by mental health difficulties. The book will bring together the evidence along with stories derived from my...
15 top tips for co-design in digital health

15 top tips for co-design in digital health

The mHabitat team are currently running a Digital Development Lab on behalf of NHS England for a small group of innovators who have developed promising digital innovations for young people’s mental health. We are helping them travel the journey from development through to adoption within the NHS. We recently brought our lovely band of innovators together for a couple of days of shared learning on a number of hot topics. I’m going to be writing a short post on each topic and first up is the fundamental importance of co-design in digital health. Helping us think about this topic was Andy Mayer of Yoomee fame, Matt Edgar of many things including Global Service Jam, and our regular collaborator Mark Brown from Social Spider. Whilst they shared their wisdom I furiously scribbled down a collection of top tips. Follow these simple rules and you won’t go far wrong: Should we even do it? – rather than start with ‘can it be built?’ begin the conversation with ‘should it be built?’ The answer to the first is usually ‘yes’ and the answer to the latter is often ‘no’ What don’t we know? – be honest with yourselves about what you do and don’t know – test your hypotheses and ask questions as you go Find your fans – start with your prospective users from the get-go and create a fan base – a community of people who are really up for collaborating with you It’s all about context – understand what tasks your prospective users are trying to accomplish in their context (not just who they are) so your innovation is...
What are mental health practitioner attitudes towards digital?

What are mental health practitioner attitudes towards digital?

The use of digital technologies such as Internet sites and mobile applications, have received much hype in recent years, both in mental health and the NHS more widely. Opinions on these technologies vary; and those at either ends of the viewpoint spectrum see them as either a panacea to overstretched services or as undermining the primacy of the face-to-face patient/clinician relationship. A recent open access study has endeavored to dig beneath the hype by seeking to understand the opportunities and challenges posed by the use of digital technologies from the perspective of mental health providers. As someone who runs an NHS digital innovation programme I see how practitioners are often overlooked in the development process. This is a big problem because those same practitioners are often critical in influencing the take-up and use of digital technologies by patients. So understanding digital technologies from a practitioner perspective is a welcome addition to research in this field. I’ve written a review of this study which you can read in full on The Mental Elf site here.  The Mental Elf aims to help practitioners find what they need to keep up-to-date with all of the important and reliable mental health research and guidance.  They have a team of mental health experts who post blogs every week day with short and snappy summaries that highlight evidence-based publications relevant to mental health practice in the UK and further afield. You can find out more about The Mental Elf...