Grace H.Y. Chin
This is a proposal for the study of how social media might be used to destigmatize mental health and promote mental health help-seeking in young people. Research shows that stigma is one of the leading barriers to youths seeking help regarding mental health problems (Velasco et al, 2020). By finding out a way to change negative views on mental health, youths will be more willing to ask for help and will not suffer alone.
Age 10–29 years is the critical developmental life period where youths’ mental health and well-being would be particularly influenced (Rickwood, 2005). Despite this being a crucial time, unfortunately, only 13% of males and 31% of females aged 16 to 24 years seek help when experiencing mental health difficulty (Slade, Teesson and Burgess, 2009).
Help-seeking, the act of looking for help from other people, is well-researched, with many studies of various types of interventions (Velasco et al, 2020). Most studies focused on psychoeducation and classroom-based interventions that encouraged help-seeking. Although studies showed significant effectiveness in promoting help-seeking behaviour in adolescents, few studies mentioned implementation difficulties including school administration problems, teacher’s support, and collecting consent from parents (Velasco et al, 2020).
Social media provides a promising means of encouraging mental health help-seeking, particularly dampening the dominant barrier - stigma. Now that there exists easier access and popular use to a variety of media through social media platforms (e.g. Instagram, Youtube, Facebook) and smartphones, the influence of media is undeniable. Social media provides a platform for people with mental illness to share their experiences to many people.
To decide on what kind of social media intervention to test, interviews with counsellors, psychologists, mental health charities (e.g. OCD and Anxiety HK), adolescent social media users will be carried out to better understand what social media information can particularly encourage help-seeking in adolescents. Idea generation will be accomplished through participatory design methods, such as co-design workshops. Various successful case studies on social media posts or information that have managed to “go viral”, for example the social movement “BlackLivesMatter”, will also be studied.
To test the different interventions, social media posts can be generated from different platforms reflecting the different intervention strategies actively (posting at least once a week) throughout six months. This can be done through creating an account for the different platforms and inviting participants of the research to “follow” or “add” the social media account throughout the six month period. Participants must provide consent, be aged 18-25 year old, and score 8 or greater on the Kessler-6 scale (K6) indicating mild to serious disorder (Kessler, 2018). Age, gender, race/ethnicity can be recorded.
The methodology to measure reach, engagement and stigma reduction are similar to other existing studies. Social media metrics, such as “likes” or “shares” on Facebook, can be used to measure reach and engagement for each platform and post (Martini et al, 2018). The exposure to the different interventions can be assessed through the survey. Six dimensions of mental illness stigma can be assessed: negative beliefs about mental illness, negative attitudes to treatment, intention to conceal mental health problems, perceived public stigma, positive recovery beliefs, and mental health knowledge and advocacy (Collins et al, 2019). The survey can also question whether they have used mental health services recently to see if they have seeked help and also how frequently have they spoken about their own mental health to see how comfortable they are in conversing about it (Collins et al, 2019).
Results / Outcomes
The project objective is to develop social media guidelines or tools or methods that can be used to harness the popularity of social media in order to destigmatize mental health and promote help-seeking behaviour in young people. The deliverables of the project can be used by mental health advocates, such as charities, organisations and the government.
MEng Design Engineering, Imperial College London