Web and social media have a generally bad press when it comes to their impact on young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Yet, as we progressed our multi-agency work to strengthen child and youth mental health in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, we kept coming across examples of initiatives that used digital methods to significant positive effect. Could these approaches amount to a positive support opportunity?
The other thing that we were mindful of was that as agencies and professionals we were often working in the dark. With limited collective experience of using interactive web and social media it was difficult to know where to start. And the pace of technological change is breathtaking for all – social media channels and young people’s preferences among them don’t tend to stay still long enough for statutory agencies to get to grips with them. Further, technology constraints and the necessities of managing organisational risk can make it hard to see the positives.
Young people as experts
Our approach has been to work with the real experts – young people themselves. Adopting a “coproduction” approach has proved to be a really rewarding route, aided by a consortium of three agencies who were ideally placed to make the most of this opportunity – Young Scot, Snook and The Mental Health Foundation. Colleagues linking into the Project 99 work have been hugely impressed by the enthusiasm, energy and insights of the young people who have contributed, and to the skill with which “the consortium” have guided them through the territory.
While the detailed findings, outputs and recommendations from Project 99 can be found elsewhere on this site, there are a few major points that have really struck home for me from this work:
- The current generation of young people have always had digital communications in their lives – they don’t see it as something separate, it is here to stay
- Digital approaches can bring real benefits to young people’s wellbeing
- Every young people’s approach to communication and their interaction with technology is unique to them – there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, we need to design for diversity
- Young people, with the right support, have a huge amount to contribute to designing solutions to health and social challenges, both creating positive resources and devising strategies for minimising impact of negative influences
- Young people are already doing a huge amount to support their peers in terms of emotional health, but want the adult and professional worlds to engage with them, to “support the supporters”
- There are many positive digital mental health initiatives around the world – from Dundee to Dunedin – that we can learn from and collaborate with in advancing this agenda – we are not starting from scratch
The outputs of Project 99 provide an excellent platform to help us move forwards with our partners and with young people. We look forward to hearing your reactions to this work and to shaping the next steps in this journey.