Mental Health Awareness week #BeBodyKind – thoughts for mental health practitioners and digital innovators

Mental Health Awareness week #BeBodyKind – thoughts for mental health practitioners and digital innovators

I recently wrote an opinion piece for mobile health news for Mental Health Awareness week. Here is the full post on their site, which I have reproduced below: Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 13 until 19 May and the theme this year is body image – how we think and feel about our bodies, based on research undertaken by the foundation. The MHF research shows that just over one in five adults (22%) and 40% of teenagers worry about their body image as a result of social media. Another piece of research by the Be Real campaign finds that almost two-thirds of young people (61%) feel pressure to look their best online and more than two thirds (67%) regularly worry about the way they look. MHF make a number of recommendations for regulators, industry, public health and education. But what does this mean for mental health practitioners and digital mental health innovators interested in helping young people? In Teen mental health in an online world, along with a colleague, I explored teenagers’ use of social media and the impact on body image, amongst other adverse effects. Whilst the association between negative body image and idealised images online is clear, the ways in which young people actively resist these stereotypes is often underestimated in research and campaigns. Through our interviews and focus groups, we found examples of young people being anything other than passive consumers as they navigate their on/ offline lives. In one focus group, we stumbled across the #iamperfectasme social media campaign which was established by a group of BAME young women in Bradford, who set out to promote body confidence...
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...
Layers of delight (and the joy of online social networks with my teens)

Layers of delight (and the joy of online social networks with my teens)

Ok, so I know there are plenty of aspects of online social networks that are problematic. Particularly for teens. But sometimes I reflect on ways in which online social networks, and our smartphones, afford layers of connection between myself and my three children (12, 14 and 17) which give me unmitigated joy and delight. Things are expressed that would never be said face to face. Experiences can be shared even when we are far apart. We can collaborate in novel and pleasurable ways. Here are just ten examples… Sharing special moments from afar – the time when my daughter allowed me to share her first experience of Glastonbury festival by sending me WhatsApp video clips of the moment when she met her favourite music artist Helping each other out – all the times when my daughter asks for my advice on her clothing purchases via Facetime from shop dressing rooms Bad humour– the atrocious comedy memes and GIFs via WhatsApp from my son Saying what can’t be said in person – my daughter congratulating me on passing my PhD viva via text message when she could only be tetchy to my face Liking my stuff – when my son hearts my Instagram posts and his friends (bizarrely) start following my account Keeping a close but surreptitious eye – my daughter blocking me on Facebook only to allow her BFF to friend me so that she can spy on my posts via her account Sharing the love – my daughter sending me heart emojis and telling me she loves me via WhatsApp when she will never say it to my...