Young people need safe digital spaces to break down mental health stigma

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Young people need safe digital spaces to break down mental health stigma

May 3, 2021

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Over the past year, batyr surveyed and interviewed over 500 young people, as well as 71 mental health sector professionals, to find out what’s the missing link when it comes to open conversations and help-seeking around mental health.

Young people are going through key developmental milestones whilst dealing with high rates of mental ill-health amid natural disasters and the global pandemic. Young people need support and, for those thinking about reaching out for help, they overwhelmingly want to use digital and online spaces as a jumping off point to start a conversation around mental health. 

However, these digital gateways, from websites to apps to digital content, need to be blended with easily-accessed offline support or “real world services” when they need it.

“Digital platforms need to be effectively designed to address the major factors preventing young people from taking steps to take charge of their mental health,” said batyr Head of Data and Insights, Josh Wiseman.

“Young people identified a strong preference for self-reliance, stigma and low mental health literacy as key barriers to getting the right support that they needed”

One 25-year-old participant said: “I lived with a mental illness for nearly ten years before I was able to get help for it. I didn’t have the language to describe what was going on, I wasn’t in a safe environment where I could ask for help, my family and the people we spent time with didn’t always take mental health seriously.”

Another participant, 18, said: “Having recognition of one’s own suffering of mental health is the most critical aspect of treatment: you can’t help someone who doesn’t understand that they need help. I think this really speaks to me because I was engaging with behaviours or thoughts that were unhealthy but because I had never known any different (it was the norm for me), I never sought treatment as I didn’t realise there were problems.”

Effective digital entry points can help to cut-through the barriers preventing young people from reaching out, and one of the most effective ways to do that is creating a digital platform that truly reflects the lived experiences and real-life stories of young people who have made that journey, from challenging times, to the point where they are now on a healthy path to managing their mental wellbeing.

Digital spaces need to also offer the opportunity for new users to be able to share their own stories, safely and effectively, with other young people, which provides them with a sense of agency over their mental health journey and can help to “bridge the divide” along the lines of geography (such as metro vs regional), cultural, and gender diversity.

batyr is at the final stages of developing an online platform that aims to plug these gaps that can prevent early intervention. This is all thanks to the Morrison Government’s three-year $2.8 million funding commitment to batyr as part of its larger national mental health and suicide prevention plan.

The online platform will provide a safe and welcoming environment to hear from other young people, develop community connections, and for individuals themselves to tell their own stories in diverse ways, from writing and video, to art and music.

The platform will have three core audiences:

  • Story creators: These users will be provided with an interactive framework to learn how to share their experiences in a positive, safe and impactful way. This process will support their mental health literacy and decrease the stigma associated with sharing these stories.
  • Story consumers: Young people can flick through the story feed similar to most social media platforms. They can search for stories that resonate with themselves, filter by topic and be inspired by the experiences of other young people.
  • Data consumers: The platform is designed to capture valuable insights from impact data on the story creators and consumers but also qualitative insights from the stories themselves to amplify the voices of the individuals to create feedback loops to the sector and government in order to better respond to young peoples’ needs.

“Importantly, the platform will provide a framework to tell their story in ways that move past extreme, medicalised and often negative language, to more positive, uplifting and hopeful language,” Josh said.

batyr wants to use these insights to inform service providers on how to make their services more accessible to young people. We are currently undertaking this work as part of our newly-established Data and Insights team.

Discover more about our digital storytelling platform OurHerd ahead of the official launch later this year.