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.

For what we’re about to receive: using gratitude to boost wellbeing in schools – Lea Waters

Associate Professor Lea Waters
Associate Professor Lea Waters

“In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy” – Albert Clarke

What is gratitude? How do we define gratitude? How has gratitude changed over time for us as individuals?

We all most likely began our life seeing gratitude as manners. As the “pleases” and “thank you’s” in life, as what our parents told us was right. Turns out, this is possibly the simplest meaning of gratitude we could have.

Opening our eyes to the power of gratitude, Associate Professor Lea Waters began by asking us to tell her what gratitude feels like. Having closed our eyes and brainstorming to find a moment when we felt gratitude or have received gratitude in our own lives, Lea then helped define this feeling of gratitude as:

“A worldview moving towards noticing and appreciating the positives in life” or

“An acknowledgement that we have received something of value from others”.

Gratitude is not just a feeling, but a reaction from a complex cognitive process. Lea explained that there is actually multiple factors that are taken into play right before we begin to feel gratitude for something, a whole judgement process considering factors such as:

  • Is this gift something of value?
  • Was it through kindness or altruism?
  • What is the cost of this action?
  • How is this impacting the person who’s giving?

Associate Professor Lea Waters

However, gratitude is more than a feeling and it is more than a cognitive process. Gratitude can improve your health on all different levels. The physical findings from studying the impact of gratitude on the body has come to show that:

Gratitude can:

  • Help us sleep better,
  • Support our immune system,
  • Help us cope with pain,
  • Reduce somatic symptoms.

So remember, “If we don’t show gratitude, it’s like receiving a present and not opening it”.

Why not try the exercise yourself, close your eyes and think of something you have to be grateful for, or a time you felt grateful; then share it with us!

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Homelessness- ‘Through the eyes of a Child’

Michelle Clayton
Michelle Clayton, Children’s Resource program coordinator, Southern Region

Presenters Michelle Clayton and Susie Richards, both Children’s Resource Program Coordinators, from the Southern and Eastern Regions respectively looked at issues of homelessness and family violence through the eyes of the children involved.

The key is that, children’s experiences of homelessness are very different to those of adults.

The important moments in this journey might be leaving a pet behind or losing a teddy bear, these are things that need to be understood by the social workers who take on these cases.

But the question is do you have the resources to make a space nurturing for a child and to make your service suitable for a child?

There are plenty of barriers in working with children facing homelessness:

Susie Richards
Susie Richards, Children’s Resource program coordinator, Eastern Region
  • Who is the client? Is it the child, his/her family or parents?,
  • Children aren’t often funded as clients,
  • Children can be somewhat invisible to the worker (as they’re often as school and cannot often be accessed on week days),
  • There is a belief that children are resilient,
  • There is also a belief that fixing the homelessness problem will fix the child (even though the trauma of such an event will impact onto the child’s life for a long period),
  • Parents are protective of children and generally have reasonable parenting abilities,
  • Children’s issues not addressed because of the hierarchy of needs within the family.

The role of the Statewide Children’s Resource Program is to try and overcome these barriers through training, much of which is offered free to agencies, and resource distribution to aid workers who are trying to engage with children facing homelessness.

The program aims to raise awareness among workers about the impacts on health, mental health, education and emotional stability that homelessness can have on a child and some of the simple things that can be done to aid kids through this time, such as having toys for kids to play with in the office.

Toys for children to play with

Workers in this area need to assess their current ideas of children’s rights and their usual methods of dealing with family homelessness.

The Statewide Children’s Resource Program seeks to inspire this assessment and teach workers to improve their practice and support children who face homelessness.

For more information on the type of resources developed visit http://www.homelesskidscount.org/

Post written by youth bloggers from SYN Media.