Exploring existing and emerging technologies to facilitate help-seeking, stigma reduction and support of Young People’s Mental Health.

Why did we set up the Mood Movement research network?

As a society, we are spending more time online than ever before (Ofcom, 2017). Digital technologies are culturally embedded into most aspects of our lives including work, relationships , and now healthcare. Mood Movement has been set up to explore several elements of digital life as they pertain to young people (YP) who require support for their mental health (MH); including engaging in online help-seeking, ways technology may support or hinder stigma reduction, and how technology can be used to provide support services for MH issues.

Worldwide, approximately 175 million health-related searches are performed using Google, every day (Live Internet Stats). Some have questioned the benefits of these searches (Biddle et al. 2008; Mars et al. 2015), particularly as one cannot mitigate the ‘risks’ associated with retrieving poor quality information or treatment advice online. YP tend to place a high degree of trust in online sources (Best et al. 2016) and search engine ranking is often mistaken as a quality indicator. YP with MH issues are particularly vulnerable because they are less likely to access traditional forms of support (Leavey et al. 2011). Considering this, there is mounting curiosity about the capabilities of digital technologies to support mental wellbeing in YP. Yet the dearth of research in this area means that little is known about the benefits and risks of digital technologies in this context.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 there has been a rapid transition to technology-mediated communication and resource provision across health, educational, voluntary, political, and entertainment sectors,to sustain a degree of societal functioning which may permanently change how such sectors operate (Ting, Carin, Dzau, & Wong, 2020). Having quickly adapted to facilitate provision of these services remotely, there is recognised value in assimilating digital technologies in MH services to expand availability of resource and time (Keesara, Jonas, & Kevin Schulman, 2020; Torous, Myrick, Rauseo-Ricupero, & Firth, 2020). However, the risks are less understood (Hollis et al., 2018; Holmes et al., 2020).

To date, the research agenda relating to MH digital technology has largely been influenced by the
research community, technology developers, and health policy makers, with little reference to, or
input from, people with MH problems, their families and carers, or non-academic clinicians. The Mood Movement network is a response to the global need to build an evidence base for digital technology in youth MH care in the UK and Ireland.

Aims of the network

The Mood Movement network aims to bring together academics and practitioners from across the social sciences with input from those with lived experience of mental ill health, YP and their parents/carers to develop an inter-disciplinary research agenda, and create opportunities for people to work together to address two key challenges:

  • Identify existing and emerging technologies that promote MH help-seeking and stigma reduction in YP at risk of MH problems.
  • Understand how existing and emerging technologies can influence adolescent MH problems and what aspects of the digital world can support those with mental ill health and what can promote resilience.

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