Mental Health & Young People Online

As part of their Headlining Mental Health programme, Media Trust arranged two days of free masterclasses during Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 to help mental health and wellbeing organisations make the most of social media to engage their audiences in new and compelling ways. One of their inspirational keynote speakers was Seyi Akiwowo, Glitch’s founder and CEO. In her keynote address, Seyi introduced two important concepts, which are vital for everyone interacting online:

This is a graphic, of a green notebook and purple paperclip on a yellow background. The notebook defines two terms, in white font: ● Digital citizenship: everyone has a right to safely and freely engage in online spaces without discrimination ● Digital self-care: recognising, setting and communicating boundaries in digital spaces in order to have a positive online experience.

Whether you are a young person navigating online spaces or a professional seeking to help someone else, the following questions can help us all to build a more positive relationship with the digital world.

1. What’s the purpose of your relationship with the online space? Perhaps it’s networking, learning or activism, or something else entirely. Be clear about what you want to get out of your online presence.

2. What are you willing to share? Digital footprints last — for years, and potentially forever. If other people are in your photo or post, do you have their consent to include them in your digital footprint? Think about where your post could be shared to. Rather than defaulting to sharing everything, normalise actively talking about what gets shared.

3. What support network do you need? Perhaps your friends can help to hold you accountable online. Or if you do a job which requires you to have online interactions, does your employer help to take care of your digital wellbeing with good policies and support?

4. Set your own rules of engagement. These rules could just be for you, or they could be a public policy. They will help you decide about what you will and won’t engage on — what you’ll discuss, and what you’ll walk away from — and what you will report. These rules will help you set and stick to boundaries, which are so vital for digital self-care.

If you are somebody who works with young people, ensure you’re a listening ear. Begin from an understanding that online spaces are not designed to be safe, and coach them from that starting point, without judgement. There are free resources on the Glitch website which can provide practical support, including how to document online abuse.

If you are a mental health charity interested in communications training, you can also apply to join Media Trust’s Headlining Mental Health programme.

Watch Seyi’s keynote address at Media Trust’s Mental Health Awareness Week masterclass here.