The boys need us: technology & the mental health & wellbeing of young men

Associate Professor Jane Burns

 

Technology can provide young people with the support they need outside of business hours.

 

After Baroness Susan Greenfield discussed some of the issues with social media, CEO of Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre (YAWCRC) Associate Professor Jane Burns, led an interesting workshop on the impact technology has on the mental health and wellbeing of young men in Australia.

Speaking from a personal perspective, Jane’s own 7-year-old son Angus, lives with autism and down syndrome, and relies on an iPad in order to communicate on a day-to-day basis.

A champion for the digital movement, Jane believes that Australia should utilise the technologies available to us today in order to provide youth with more accessible, online mental health services.

She contends that while Australia is one of the leading nations in service provision, we are living in an opportune time to decrease the still apparent disparity in health care in rural societies through mental health professional providing services online, building connections with and between young people.

Jane Burns, CEO of Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre
Jane Burns, CEO of Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre

Working with Movember, Beyond Blue, University of Sydney, and The Black Dog Institute, the YAWCRC conducted a national survey in 2012 to produce a research report on the impact of technologies on young men’s mental health and wellbeing.

Implementing the gold standard of survey-taking, they interviewed 1,400 young men aged 16-25 from all states and territories around Australia, of which 30% were from regional, rural or remote areas, and 2% identified as Indigenous.

Interesting stats from the research:

  • 99% of Australians aged 16-25 y.o. use the internet,
  • 95% of Australians aged 16-25 y.o. use it everyday or almost everyday.
  • Most are online for 2-4 hours a day,
  • 20% are online for 5+ hours a day.

The top three ways young people use the Internet:

  • 94% email in 2012 (up from 13% in 2008),
  • 93% facebook in 2012 (up from 32% in 2008),
  • 86% YouTube in 2012 (up from 7% in 2008).

How young people use the Internet:

  • 74.8% access the Internet by phone,
  • 69.9% access the Internet by laptop,
  • 34.3% access the Internet by tablet,
  • 30.8% access the Internet by desktop computer.

Where young people use the Internet:

  • 75.9% access it in their bedroom,
  • 56.2% access it in a social setting.

The main issues that concern young men aged 16-25:

  • 47.6% said coping with stress,
  • 26.6% said depression,
  • 26.3% said body image issues,
  • 19.3% said bullying or emotional abuse.

Finally, 42% of young men experience ‘moderate’ to ‘very high’ levels of psychological distress. Young men aged 22 to 25 years consistently reported higher rates of suicidal thoughts.

Associate Professor Jane Burns

Almost 1 million young men are experiencing moderate to very high levels of psychological distress. Regardless of psychological distress, use of the internet is almost universal (98%) and in similar frequency. Even with advances in mental health services, young men do not seek help and many young men are not using services until they reach crisis point.

It appears that many men who are experiencing psychological distress tend to go online and use digital tools to express, share, distribute, and discuss their issues with others in a private, confidential setting. This acts as a cathartic tool and mental wellbeing exercise that can translate into their everyday lives.

Jane concluded the workshop by stating that further research needs to be conducted, and more data needs to be collected in order to understand the effects of technology on mental health and wellbeing. She is interested in knowing how we can tap into and use gaming and social media to use and create content for mental health services. 

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

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