An Edinburgh Napier PhD student’s research has helped shape a new Scottish Government package of measures that aims to improve the mental health of young people.
Nicole Walsh recently completed a three month internship within the Scottish Government, looking at the trends and impact of various aspects that could affect the mental health of young people in the country.
Obtained through the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Internship Scheme, Nicole’s internship saw her work closely with the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Unit – along with other areas in the organisation – to complete the project.
Her work found four key areas – social media, lack of sleep, body image worries and school pressures – as potential factors in the reported worsening of mental wellbeing among adolescent girls in Scotland.
At Trinity High School in Rutherglen last week, Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey announced a new package of measures that aims to directly target the impact of social media and body image on the mental wellbeing of young people in Scotland.
The package includes £90,000 of funding to produce advice on healthy use of social media and screen time, which will be created in partnership with young people.
In addition, a review of evidence on the effects of screen use on sleep and the implications of this for mental health will also be commissioned.
For Nicole – who combines studying for a PhD in compassionate care with her role as a youth worker – the internship with Scottish Government has been an invaluable experience in an area that she feels incredibly passionate towards.
She said: “This internship with the Scottish Government has been incredibly valuable and it was great to be involved with such a fast-paced research project in an area I feel so passionately about.
“The chance to help shape policy with my research is something I’m proud to have done at such an early stage in my career. It is fantastic news that the Scottish Government has prioritised keeping young people safe on social media as it is an area of growing concern for many of the individuals and families I work with through my youth worker role.
“The actions announced today are a big step in making the online world a safer place for young people and I’m privileged to have been a part of their development.”
Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey said: “We know that many young people in Scotland, particularly girls, are unsatisfied with their physical appearance, and that high levels of social media use may be detrimental to mental wellbeing. We also know that adolescent girls in Scotland report higher levels of social media use than boys.
“Social media does have the potential to be used in a hugely positive way, but we want to ensure young people are properly informed on how social media promotes unrealistic expectations.
“During Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week we announced that we will be producing advice, specific to Scotland, on the healthy use of social media and screen time. We are now committing £90,000 to carry out this work as part of a package of measures to give young people the support they need. We want all young people to be able to grow up in a modern Scotland with good mental wellbeing.”
The full report from the project – Exploring the reported worsening of mental wellbeing among adolescent girls in Scotland – can be read here.
The Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027 can be found here.