Greig is a 19 year-old carer from Govan. He, his mother and brother live with mental health problems. He struggled in high school until he moved to a school better suited to his style of learning. He is now in College, part of a Young Carer group and a volunteer Youth Worker Leader at his Church.
Mental Wellbeing Journey
Greig lives with Asperger’s Syndrome, but was not diagnosed until high school. His behaviour was attributed to the extreme trauma he experienced as a young child. According to Greig, his mother’s mental health difficulties led her to “dramatise and exaggerate” his symptoms.
Finding the right school
Primary school was extremely difficult. The lack of awareness or support for him and his mum made him frustrated and disruptive. He found it difficult to make friends.
An accurate diagnosis in High School improved things slightly. The school were also aware of his mother’s condition but did not have adequate support. His severe dyslexia compounded his difficulty to learn and led to angry outbursts. Many classmates bullied Greig and he began to strike out, but the school punished him rather than his bullies.
He was told to stay home if he woke up in a dark mood, knowing this would make an outburst more likely. Greig felt this as a relief and a frustration. He was eventually provided with a learning support teacher, but only during home economics class, to ensure he wouldn’t become angry whilst using kitchen implements.
He moved to a school specialising in supporting people with autism. The teaching suited his style of learning – through puzzles, games and quizzes, and a designated ‘chill out’ room. He still felt slightly out of place, feeling that he was probably one of the most intelligent students and a little held back.
He is now in College and continues to receive learning support, but finally feels more in control of his condition and home situation.
He attributes this improvement to the support of a Young Carers group and his Church. He started attended the weekly sessions at the Young Carers group when he was 13. He can contact the support workers at any time; whilst they might not be able to meet him immediately, they will always make an appointment straight away. The head support worker regularly contacts Greig to see how he is getting on.
He describes the group as family, and even though his peers at the group “drive him mad sometimes” their friendship is extremely important. As the longest standing member, he enjoys a kind of senior status.
He attends Church twice weekly and volunteers as a youth worker. He feels able to relax and be truly himself there and enjoys the kind and caring nature of the community. Perhaps the most important aspect is his voluntary work as a youth group leader. His ability to support other young people is vital to his own sense of wellbeing.
Greig has a mobile phone, but it is not a smartphone. Due to his dyslexia, phoning is easier than texting, unless it’s a one or two word answer. If someone texts him, he usually phones them back.
He accesses the Internet on the shared family desktop computer and the laptop he shares with his brother. This causes endless arguments about who gets to use it and for how long, and denies Greig privacy. He has some Internet and social networking access via Xbox Live on his own Xbox.
YouTube is the site he uses the most by far, with sessions lasting hours. He often watches videos all evening, from 5pm until 1am. Facebook and online games are central to Greig’s internet use.
He is a passive Facebook user; he likes to scroll through his friends’ posts and read news from the pages he follows but very rarely posts things. He will reply to messages as soon as possible – he hates “ignoring people” – but is unlikely to instigate conversations. He plays Facebook games a lot.
He also uses the Internet for college work. Due to his dyslexia he avoids websites with large amounts of text and complex layouts. For example, he never reads blogs but prefers videos.
Greig doesn’t use digital or social media to manage his mental wellbeing. In the past he has attempted to search for information on Asperger’s Syndrome and his mother’s condition. However, he found very little that was of use to him as someone managing his own condition on a daily basis, and even less that was in a form that was easy for him to digest. He does receive email updates from support groups that his College signed him up to but mostly treats them as spam.
Private Internet access
"We’ve just got a family computer ... it causes arguments ... who gets to go on when, and how long I’ve been on it for!"
Not all young people possess a personal device to access the Internet. Sharing with with parents, siblings or classmates affects their autonomy and privacy.
Communication & information
Text and instant messaging messaging seem to remain a key part of one-to-one communication while video is used as an inclusive and engaging medium to disseminate information. Along Facebook, YouTube was the most popular social media site.
"The games are what I like best about Facebook ... sometimes I’m on there for up to a few hours at a time."
Continuous social media use
"My brothers say I spend way too much on YouTube and it causes arguments sometimes. I don’t think I do! Well, I mean ... it’s not like I have anything better to do!"
The excessive amount of time Greig spends online in the evening was found to be common amongst the participants.
Passive vs active users
"I do post things on Facebook sometimes, but it’s mainly to reply to things that other people have posted. I reply more than I post."
Young people talk about social media use as falling into two camps, with users being described as either a 'talker' (active) or a 'stalker' (passive)’.
Young people are constantly subject to information overload; competition for their attention is fierce. Fast judgements will be made as to the interest of any information. Certain content and trends will stand out from the noise and “go viral" through the sharing of links. What kind of information this will be is quite unpredictable.