My recent talks about digital youth mental health

Hello readers,

I must apologise for the lengthy gap between my last blog and this one. My blogging activity (or lack thereof) is directly linked to the amount of time I have spent running around working, speaking and campaigning so as you can imagine I’ve been very, very busy recently.

I will be following this post up with a blog on what young people want when it comes to mental health support, and in particular what role they want technology to play. It’s something I care about passionately and have dedicated much of the last six years of my professional life to.

There have been two events I’ve spoken at recently that have acted as the catalyst to the aforementioned blog which I thought I would summarise to give you all some context and an update on what I’ve been up to recently if you haven’t been following my Twitter account.

The Kings Fund:
The Art of The Possible: How will health and care be transformed in the age of information sharing?

This first event was a roundtable discussion, it was incredibly popular as you can imagine given the title and by the end it was standing room only. It heartens me that there is such a clear, strong appetite for discussions of this nature.

It’s also one of the first events I’ve been to in a long time where I knew next to no one- often I feel I am just preaching to the converted so this was a chance to share my experiences and ideas with a new crowd.

We adhered to Chatham House Rules during the event so I can’t divulge who said what but I will say that it was very interesting how many people started their contributions with comments along the lines of “I could never say this at work..”. This suggests to me there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to bring digital to the masses in the health sector as well as a fair amount of resistance to new ways of working which is something I certainly experienced while working for the NHS.

I gave the opening talk, sharing my personal experiences of using mental health services for the last 11 years and being a digital entrepreneur and activist. This involved a quick run through of my own health journey from the age of 6 when I became symptomatic right up to where I am now aged 25.

I spoke about how much the internet and the support I received online not only helped but probably saved me, especially during my teens when I was at my lowest point. If you’ve heard me speak before you will know I have spent a good 12 years using online support such as chat rooms, message boards and in the last few years social media to provide and receive advice, information and very importantly peer support.

If you’d like to read more I strongly recommend you read this article by Dr Roger Stedman who attended the event which has the brilliant title; Time For a Digital Citizens Revolt.

Westminster Briefing: Improving Mental Health Services for Children and Young People: Identifying Need and Targeting Support 

Yesterday I found myself on a list of speakers which pretty much sums up my dream team- three incredible women who I’ve had the distinct pleasure to work with over the last few years:

Geraldine Strathdee- When I first started working at the NHS a few years ago everyone, and I mean everyone that had anything to do with mental health said to me, “Kat you have GOT to meet Geraldine, she is your kindred spirit” – I was not disappointed.

Geraldine has some serious clout as National Clinical Director for Mental Health in England but what I find truly inspirational about her is that she’s so down to earth and when it comes to mental health she just “gets it”. She  works, often 18 hours a day, always seven days a week, to try and improve mental health services. She is a passionate advocate for service user voice and involvement and I think she, against all odds, bringing about real change in the system.

She’s on Twitter and always open to ideas, comments and suggestions- in particular if you know of good practice happening in mental health please tell her so she can share the learning. She also blogs and you can find some of them here.

Lise Hertel- Lise is one of most inspiring and driven GPs I’ve ever met. She’s based in East London and also works for Newham CCG. It has crossed my mind on more than one occasion that I should probably move to her catchment area so I would never have to worry about having a bad GP-mental health experience ever again!

Lise is very forward thinking and a real believer in innovation and technology. As a service user, before I met people like Lise and other CCG mental health leads in London the idea of GPs commissioning mental health services scared the **** out of me because of my many awful experiences previously. However many of my concerns simply evaporated when I met people like Lise. I think, as much as there is a lot of risk, there is also a huge opportunity in GP led commissioning for mental health and will be watching closely to see what happens in the next few years.

Sarah Brennan– Sarah is the CEO of a charity you’ve all heard me rave about before: YoungMinds. I got involved in the organisation six years ago in January and I can honestly credit them with entirely turning my life around and giving me purpose.

Before YoungMinds I didn’t talk about my mental health offline, I didn’t wear short sleeves and I lived essentially in the mental health “closet”. YoungMinds helped me find my voice and gave me a platform to share my experiences, build my confidence and also introduced me to a group of young people who are essentially now an extension of my family.

I’d strongly recommend you:

Sign up to the YoungMinds VS campaign which has five areas in which we want to fight the pressure experienced by young people and create a mass movement for change.

Sign the YoungMinds petition to stop cuts to children and young people’s mental health services– you will be in good company as over 16,000 have already signed.

The event

I did my usual talk, very like the one I gave to the Kings Fund around what young people want from mental health services and also gave five examples of really great digital tools and services currently available including the amazing organisation I work for; BuddyApp..this will be the subject of a blog coming shortly.

We also heard from the awe inspiring work of Highfield Community Primary School in Sunderland who, through work with Place2Be have become a real beacon of hope to the children, parents and community they work with. As someone who had an awful time with mental illness at my own school growing up I really wish I had a Tardis so I could do my time again and attend this school which really prioritises the health and wellbeing of their pupils.

If you have any questions or ever want to pick my brains when it comes to technology and youth mental health please don’t hesitate to contact me, either through my twitter account or by email at kat@buddyapp.co.uk

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Acceptance speech perhaps?

It’s taken me awhile to put out this first blog of the year. After the literal and figurative madness that sums up the end of 2013 I for some reason naively thought January might be a bit quieter..how wrong I was!

Over the Christmas holidays I was surprised to discover I had been nominated for not one but two awards from Mentally Wealthy. I’m a long time reader of the site and previous iterations such as This Week In Mentalists and have a huge amount of respect for the bloggers involved so I was certainly not expecting to see my own name appear in the nominations!

I came runner up in This Week In Mentalists Award 2013 in “Campaigning” and the Twitter based
Twental Health Awards 2013  in “Professional Not Otherwise Specified”.

Clearly all those teenage years hidden behind a computer screen blogging, moderating and being on social media paid off!-I have of course pointed this out to my parents to show them I didn’t waste my teenage years online! It is still something I have to pinch myself over though. As someone who at points genuinely didn’t expect to see her 16th birthday let alone their 24th it amazes me how far I have come. I’ve said many times before that if I could go back and tell my 14 year old self what things would be like in a decade I would most likely laugh in my own face. I am proof that it can and does get better even if “better” isn’t what you expected or planned.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough (and believe me i was taken aback as it was), Vinspired announced that I was a Regional Winner in their Vinspired National Awards as “Most Outstanding Social Entrepreneur” for my work on the WellHappy app.

This is a huge thing for both myself personally and for the WellHappy project and I am still so stunned that I’ve won.

So I guess I have to do some kind of acceptance speech? Don’t worry i’m not going to sit here for the next 10 pages and bore the pants off you but I do have some people that need to be thanked for their part in this.

YoungMinds

Firstly I need to thank YoungMinds which includes all the young people and staff I have been so fortunate to have in my life these past five years. It’s corny but it’s also fair to say that I could not have done this without you all and you deserve a lot of the credit for this award. Before I started volunteering with the charity I was very much in the mental health “closet”..now I am winning awards for speaking out about mental health & wellbeing. Participation helped me find my voice and campaigning gave me a platform and a purpose and I don’t dare think where I would be now without your support.

NHS

I also want to thank the NHS or more specifically my employers and colleagues within the NHS and in particular at myhealthlondon. When I was brought in to work in the NHS on secondment from YoungMinds for the WellHappy project it was a test, a trial run for 4 months. 15 months later I am still working with you after repeated contract extensions and a promotion. You took a chance on me, knowing full well all of my mental health history and that I was still technically a “young person”. It has been a pleasure having a job where I actually feel accepted and like I am able to do some good and make changes for the better.

And I would also like to say a big thank you to my wonderful friend Jenny Hills for nominating me.

And one last thank you to my long suffering boyfriend Ryan Jackson for putting up with me while i run around like, (once again both a literal & figurative) crazy lady. I certainly couldn’t have done half as much over the past 5 years without your support.

Anyway that is quite enough gushing for me for one day, i’m not sure it suits me! At this point I would probably trip over my feet on the way off stage.

And the thing is, this was only the start of the year and much has happened since then, but that is for another post.

When targeted advertising sucks: eating disorders, childhood bullies & dead friends on Facebook..

I just had a friend call me up to see if i knew that there was a large picture urging you to lose weight at the bottom of my last post on Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Now as far as i can see there isn’t one (but i am paranoid) so this leads me suggest it is our dear old enemy targeted advertising.

Unfortunately because my blog discusses things such as “anorexia” and “eating disorders” and other key words like this, I and many Eating Disorder websites and forums suffer from very inappropriate, triggering and potentially dangerous targeted advertising.

I see it all the time, well i used to before i got Ad Block, and it was horrible. Diet pill ads on Pro-recovery websites for people with eating disorders, babies toys advertised on bereavement forums. And there are just so many more examples out there.

And who out there hasn’t had Facebook suggest they befriend their old childhood bully, or wished a dead friend who just can’t bear to “remove” just yet a happy birthday or asked why you haven’t spoken to them recently. Unpleasant!

Targeted advertising is still  a shockingly blunt tool at times and the best way i’ve found to deal with the problem is..

Get rid of all the Ads and Pop-Ups altogether!

Adblock screen grab

Adblock

I did this awhile ago and i can barely remember what life was like before, i tend to recoil in horror at other people’s computer screens.

And it’s really easy i promise and a great way of avoiding triggers online, especially when we’re talking about Eating Disorders.

Just google Ad Block and download the one that is compatible with your browser.

Never a dull moment in mental health..

Not that i ever have anything that resembles a “quiet” week but next week is looking especially busy so i thought i would give you a little warning as to what’s coming up. And first a bit about what i have been up to so far this week.

This week:

On Tuesday I was lucky enough to meet up with Wedge and Jules from LifeSIGNS at the Tate Modern to talk about blogging, mental health and online peer support. As a long time user of their message boards and a big fan of their work it is really exciting to be working with them. 

I visited the counselling service Open Door in North London to talk about the app i’m working on and the work that they do with young people. One of my favourite parts of the project i am working on is that i am lucky enough to go and visit these incredible grassroots organisations in person and really get a feel for how they work.

And now next week..

On Monday i will be speaking at Munch, Poke Ping, a national conference about social media and vulnerable young people. 

This is followed by a conference on Tuesday run by YoungMinds and the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health “Young People in the Internet Wilderness: A Psychological Time Bomb?” which will look at the opportunities and threats faced by young people in the digital age.

At both conferences i will be talking both about my own experiences of using the internet as a therapeutic tool and the work that i am now doing with YoungMinds and MyHealthLondon, developing an app for young people living in London to help them find help when they need it.

This is followed on the Saturday by the last VIK day of the year, i can’t believe how fast this year has flown by and how much we have achieved as a project!

Really looking forward to both of the events, both presenting and listening to the fascinating speakers that are lined up for both days. I will be blogging about both of these events so watch this space!

A quick update

I thought i should probably make a quick update about some of the exciting new things i am doing that i haven’t shared with you all yet.

Firstly i have finally left my job in order to go freelance with my Mental Health and Social Media work. I will still be a VIK with YoungMinds as well as a young advisor for the Royal College of Psychiatrists and a media and communications volunteer with North Essex Foundation Partnership Trust.

I will now also be working with Katie Bacon, founder of Online Youth Outreach which is something i cannot wait to get properly started with. Over the next few months I will be facilitating and speaking at a few events  which i will talk about more closer to the time.

Alongside all these things i will also be reunited with Bill Badham and his wonderful team at Practical Participation, working with Puzzled Out (the CAMHS mapping service) and hopefully with a few universities, advising on course content and even lecturing as a service user.