And I’m going to dispel another myth too. Not all children and young people are addicted to their phones. Digital access and skills among vulnerable groups however, is the subject for another blog.
This one is about mental health and the role of social media and the online world. Young people suffered poor emotional health long before the Internet. We all did and do. And evidence of the impact of social media remains equivocal.
Some of our young people are on social media and some are even kind enough to follow and interact with us online. We do a lot across eight social media platforms and scheduling apps mean we might be posting 24/7.
So where does that leave us when a young person needs emotional support and assumes we are online at 2am? These are new boundaries for the third sector to navigate that I see very little discussion about.
So what can we do in the face of a mental health epidemic? It’s a given that this is a crisis for young people (Norwich was recently cited as one of the worst places in the UK to get mental health support). From a business perspective it impacts on our ability to work successfully with young people. If we can’t engage young people and replicate a successful model of engagement we go out of business.
What can we do? We can do more of what we do well, build trust, maintain our boundaries and operate our safeguarding procedures. But that’s no longer enough for me.
I have recently found myself signposting young people to support via Twitter and other platforms. Anecdotally it appears to alleviate some degree of isolation and provide other avenues of untapped support.
There are some fantastic online initiatives out there and we will be looking at partnering with Big White Wall. Some services decide to do it in-house and develop their own mental health provision. I want us to remain focussed on our mission and find external and innovative solutions that require us to build relationships.
We bang in enough about this with young people after all!