Bridging the Digital Disconnect: Exploring Youth, Education, Health and Mental Health Professionals Views on Using Technology to Promote Young People s Mental Health
Barry, Margaret M.
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Clarke, AM; Kuosmanen, T; Chambers, D; Barry, MM (2014) Bridging the Digital Disconnect: Exploring Youth, Education, Health and Mental Health Professionals Views on Using Technology to Promote Young People s Mental Health. HPRC, .
Bridging the Digital Disconnect is a three-year program of research that aims to develop online resources for adults, including parents, youth workers, education, health and mental health professionals who wish to support the mental health of young people aged 12 to 25. This programme of research is being carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre at the National University of Ireland Galway and Inspire Ireland Foundation in collaboration with the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, Australia. This report is the second in a series of reports that will inform the development of these online mental health resources. The first report examined findings from a needs assessment survey conducted with parents of young people in Ireland (Clarke, Kuosmanen, Chambers & Barry, 2013). This report outlines key findings from a needs assessment survey carried out with youth workers, education, health and mental health professionals in Ireland. The specific aims of this study were to: determine professionals current use of online technologies examine professionals needs in relation to youth mental health explore professionals views regarding the use of online technologies to assist them in supporting young people s mental health and wellbeing; and explore professionals needs in relation to using online technologies to support young people s mental health. A total of 900 professionals, including youth workers, secondary school teachers, guidance counsellors, general practitioners, health promotion officers, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and resource officers for suicide prevention completed an online questionnaire. The participants in this study, who were contacted through their professional bodies and associations, expressed positive views on the use of technologies to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the young people they work with and were supportive of the development of online mental health resources. The potential of online resources as a source of support was highlighted by the high percentage of youth workers, education and health professionals that said they would look for guidance on the internet or on a mental health website. Over 70 percent of youth workers, guidance counsellors, social worker and health promotion officers reported they would use one or other of these resources if a young person was going through a tough time. Younger respondents (18 to 25 years old) and female respondents were more likely to report using online resources. Resources requested by youth workers, education and health professionals centered around the need for accurate information and guidelines in relation to promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in young people and the identification of youth mental health problems. Youth workers and education professionals specifically requested youth friendly online resources and materials to support the implementation of mental health promotion classes. Mental health professionals needs differed from the other professional groups with an emphasis on guidelines around working with young people and their parents in the promotion of positive mental health, reliable information on mental health issues concerning young people and online, evidence-based self-help interventions that young people could use to support their own mental health. All professions requested information on the services and supports that are available locally. The importance of an online resource that pooled the evidence base in relation to mental health supports and resources was also highlighted by respondents. Of the 900 respondents that completed the survey, 98.8 percent reported that they would use the resource if it was made available. Participants in this study expressed a particular interest in the use of technologies in promoting positive mental health and wellbeing. However, mental health professionals cautioned against the development of mental health prevention and treatment resources for professionals not qualified to deal with mental health problems. All professions advocated enhancing the capacity of parents to enable them to better support young people s mental health and wellbeing. A reliable, evidence-based online resource to which professionals could refer parents was proposed across the professional groups. Youth workers and teachers emphasised the additional need for guidelines on communicating with parents and including parents in youth mental health activities. Concerns in relation to the development of online resources included the relevance of the resource to the specific needs of each profession, the broad age range for which the resources are being developed for (young people aged 12 to 25), and the need for the online resource to be used as an adjunct rather than a replacement of face- to-face services with young people. In planning and delivering online mental health resources to professionals, it is important to address these concerns and ensure that these issues are not overlooked. Findings in relation to potential barriers that would hinder professionals use of online mental health resources provided further insight into potential issues that need to be addressed. These barriers included being unsure about the reliability of the information provided, overload of information, resources not being updated regularly and the site being difficult to navigate. Respondents also referred to the need for additional training to enhance professionals IT skills. In addition, support from management in terms of providing time and access to the resource was regarded as essential to the successful integration of mental health promoting technologies within the services provided as part of the youth health workforce. Overall, the findings from this needs assessment demonstrate that there is a stong interest and willingness among professionals in utilising online technologies, particularly in combination with face-to-face supports, in their work with young people.
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