Adolescents with depression on social media

Before we created the sova websites: sova for adolescents and young adults and wisesova for parents, we wanted to learn about how adolescents with depression and their parents use social media. In user design, you want to know how someone uses a technology tool currently before you try to modify it. Also, we wanted to know whether or not social media was a good strategy to use to reach young people with depression?

We definitely learned some interesting things! Recently, this work was published in the Journal of Adolescence. If you cannot access a copy, I am happy to send it to you if you email me a request.

Some of our main findings included that adolescents with depression:

  • Like using social media to search out information, for distraction, social connection, and share positive content like quotes or funny videos
  • Also use social media in some negative ways like sharing risky behaviors like sneaking out or to compare themselves with others
  • When in a bad mood some adolescents would “stress post” or share a negative thought as a status update as a way to get it off their chest or look for social support
  • Others would “overshare” or share too much personal information or mundane facts about their lives with the effect sometimes leading to cyberbullying
  • Sometimes would feel triggered by posts they would see like of pictures of self-harm

As adolescents got older and got treatment for their depression, they would also change how they used social media in a more positive way. For example, they would send a private message to a friend who had been supportive in the past – versus sending out a Twitter status on a fishing expedition to see who might notice or respond.

These adolescents had a lot of useful information to share about social media and we are happy to share their opinion and observations with the academic world by disseminating this work.  I will be talking about this work and related research at two upcoming conferences for clinicians and families:

The 2017 Annual STAR Center Conference at University of Pittsburgh May 5, 2017

and

The NAMI Keystone PA Mental Health and Wellness Conference in Harrisburg May 12-13, 2017

We hope you can join the SOVA team there!

A SOVA winter update

Hello all!

This week we had an excellent stakeholder advisory meeting. It really means so much to hear from teens, parents, providers, and advocates. We always get so much wonderful feedback which helps us change direction in a positive way. For example, last spring, our advisory board helped us make a big decision to open the sova and wisesova articles to the public. Now we only require a log-in for the social parts of the site: the discussion board; creating a profile; making comments on blog posts; writing blog posts; and sending a private message to the moderator.

This change resulted in a spike in site views.

Capture

The chart above is produced by Jing Hua, a graduate student in information science, who has been working with SOVA and gaining skills in data visualization through her coursework. This means now we can see how anything we do produces changes in site views, log-ins, and comments!

During this week’s meeting I shared that through our feasibility survey, we have found adolescents and young adults think sova – and parents think wisesova – are user friendly sites they enjoy using! Our next step is working on engagement – how do we get more people to find out about our sites – and how do we get them to contribute to the social community by reading, commenting, and writing blogposts themselves?

If you are interested – feel free to join our sites and share articles that you find meaningful to your social networks.

Remember for sova, you need to be 14-26 and have had symptoms of depression or anxiety (you don’t need to have a diagnosis). For wisesova, you need to have been a parent of a child who has had symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Also, please like and follow us on facebook, twitter, and instagram. We share inspiring quotes and some of our featured posts on instagram – so far we have over 75 followers.

This month I’d also like to introduce our two graduate students in social work who are working with SOVA as a field instruction site:

Danielle Washington

Danielle Picture

What are your educational aspirations?
My educational aspirations are to graduate with my MSW.  Then following that I would plan to get licensed as an LSW and LCSW.

Where do you see yourself in your career 10 years from now? I want to have worked in multiple different career paths within the social work profession; for example in a nonprofit and maybe some community organizing. But my end goal is to have my own private practice.                 What personal goals are you working toward right now? Exploring the Pittsburgh area and seeing what it has to offer.  Currently I have just been busy with school; in the near future I really want to make an effort to experience the city.                                              What do you like about the SOVA project? I like that the SOVA Project has created this safe space online to education yourself on mental health and create a supportive community.  My favorite part are the many positivity posts because I enjoy seeing inspirational quotes and phrases; you never know when one will really speak to you. What do you think are some of the barriers to the project gaining speed? Now the project just needs some more engagement.  We have to find a way to create more interaction amongst the people registered and more blogs posted from our ambassadors. I think this will come with more exposure and more recruiting to get a larger group of people interested.                                                                                                                       What do you think are some of the strengths the project already has? A major strength this project has is that it contains a lot of good content.  The post are informative, short and easily understood.  Also the team behind the project is passionate about it and it really shows in all the work that is being put in behind the scene every day.

Anna Rastatter

Anna

What are your educational aspirations?During my graduate education, I’d like to further my knowledge about vulnerable populations and ways to best serve these individuals. I am especially hoping to learn more about treatment, intervention, and advocacy for people with mental illness. I would also like to find ways to better promote the benefits of mental health and self-care. In the longer term, the plan is to obtain my Master of Social Work (MSW). After graduating, I’d like to get the two licensures required to practice therapy.                                                                               Where do you see yourself in your career 10 years from now? The dream (for now) is to be established in a clinical setting practicing therapy. After graduating, I would like to obtain my licensure to practice clinical social work. I would really like to practice therapy for late adolescents and young adults as I feel like that is a time of great uncertainty for many people, regardless of what they are doing. I also have a lot of interest in psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I’ve tossed around the idea of furthering my education beyond my masters, but if I decide to do that it might be a ways down the road.                                                                                                                                              What personal goals are you working toward right now? Right now, I am focusing on finding a balance between work and school. Graduate school can be a lot to handle, so I am trying to “practice what I preach” by prioritizing my own self-care in the midst of all the busy days. I would also like to get back into my old habits of reading and writing for my own benefit. I find this is a great outlet and I’m missing it!                                          What do you like about the SOVA project? I think the SOVA project is incredibly innovative. The type of support the project offers can be so beneficial for the individuals it aims to serve. I am also really excited about writing and creating material related to mental health, as this is a main interest of mine. I also love the new aspect of the project that promotes users being ambassadors for the site by creating posts.                           What do you think are some of the barriers to the project gaining speed? I believe the greatest barrier to the website is the level of interactivity. I would love to see the site be more interactive for its users, as I believe it could be such a good resource and community.                                                                                                                                   What do you think are some of the strengths the project already has? The most apparent strength to me is the commitment the team has to the project. I think that the team behind the SOVA project is very passionate about the site being the best resource it can be for the users. I also think that the users are the driving force for the project. Every decision the team makes is with the users in mind and I really appreciate that about the project.

Thanks for reading! A happy holiday season to you all from SOVA!

Cranberry and mandarin orange christmas fruit with cinammon and star anise spice, holly, mistletoe, ivy and snow covered fir.
Cranberry and mandarin orange christmas fruit with cinammon and star anise spice, holly, mistletoe, ivy and snow covered fir.

News and Updates

 

Last weekend, I was invited by the American Academy of Pediatrics of Montana to give a talk about screening for depression and what to do when teens or their parents are not interested in starting treatment. I had never been there and as you can tell by the pictures, the scenery was beautiful. Although as we wrote about on SOVA, nature can be helpful to cope with depression, but unfortunately, Montana has some of the highest rates of suicide in the U.S.

Some think this may be partly due to social isolation and having a hard time finding mental health resources. We hope that sites like sova.pitt.edu and wisesova.pitt.edu can be useful places where depressed adolescents and their parents can find not only education about mental health and resources – but also a supportive community to connect with, no matter where they are from.

Recently some of our more active parent users have provided some very insightful comments about how parenting adolescents in general can be so complex and fluctuant. We think by normalizing the challenges all parents experience raising a young person while also trying to help themselves and their child stay mentally well, parents can better accept whatever situation they are in and be ready to accept help offered to them or look for appropriate supports.

I will leave us with this quote by someone who thoroughly enjoyed nature and used it to leave us with meaningful guidance:

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Henry David Thoreau

TEAM SPOTLIGHT: Lauren Johnson

LaurenMeet Lauren Johnson, the newest SOVA team member: Research Assistant and Main Moderator.  Lauren is a graduate of California University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Social Work.  Her main interests include: social activism, traveling, and attempting to learn new languages.

We interviewed Lauren to find out a little more about her as well as gain insight about our project.

What are your educational aspirations?

As of right now, I am focused on gaining work experience and building a career.  My aspiration would be to use my educational background to try to make the world a better place in some small way.  I have spent the better part of my life in a classroom, and now is the time to take everything that I have learned and put it to use in the “real world.”

Despite having no immediate plans to continue my education, I would like to take several Swahili classes, to become more familiar with the language.

Where do you see yourself in your career 10 years from now?

Ten years from now I would like to own my own business, possibly a non-profit, and continue to fight for social justice.  Ideally I would love a job that would allow me to directly impact my local community, while also attempting to affect positive social change on a global scale as well.  I would love to be work to address health disparities that exist for so much of the world’s population.

What personal goals are you working toward right now?

Right now I am attempting to teach myself Swahili.  I have a limited working knowledge of the language, but I would ultimately like to become fluent one day.

swahili quote

I have also been focused on remembering the importance of self-care.  Life can become chaotic and overwhelming, but every day I try to do something for myself. I have recently begun meditating, which greatly contributes to my self-care.

What do you like about the SOVA project?

I love the idea of engaging people and bringing them together through an online platform.  I think that the SOVA project is an innovative idea and could positively impact on so many people.  I am a firm believer that in order to help people you have to meet them where they are at, and the SOVA project does a fantastic job of this.

What do you think are some of the barriers to the project gaining speed?

I believe the greatest barrier to getting the project to gain speed would be the registered users not logging on, reading, and commenting on a regular basis.  If every registered user for the website commented at least once a month, the website would see a lot more traffic and an online community could really begin to take shape.

What do you think are some of the strengths the project already has?

Just like the greatest barrier, I believe the greatest strength of the SOVA project would be the registered users.  There are several users that regularly log on and comment on the various blog posts.  Due to the number of registered users, it is proof that there is a need for an intervention of this type.  The users are the backbone of the SOVA project and are the ones that create that online supportive community.

Users can blog too!

We are excited to announce the next step in SOVA. We are recruiting users to become SOVA (adolescent site) or wiseSOVA (parent site) ambassadors! This means that we will ask them to try to write a blogpost each month and comment at least once a week.

Our hope is that this new phase will grow site engagement and that the bloggers themselves will experience benefits from blogging!

In an earlier summer post, we wrote about a recent study on the benefits of blogging and why we enjoy it so much.  We are hoping our new bloggers will enjoy it as well!

Remember, if you know a young person with symptoms of depression or anxiety – or a parent who has had a child with these symptoms – who may be interested in blogging, please let them know about sovaproject! They can click register on sova.pitt.edu or wisesova.pitt.edu and start interacting!

 

 

AFSP walk

Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for helping us fundraise for the AFSP walk! We raised over $1000!

IMG_8884

 

Don’t forget – next week is Suicide Prevention Week. What can you do?

You can: sign a pledge to show others you are a safe person to talk to about suicide and mental health

You can share this link through social media:

You can: add a twibbon to your social media

Use the hashtag  #NSPW16 to post about the importance of suicide prevention

Post a personal video to share with huffington post outspeak

Learn more about suicide prevention from NAMI

Take the stigma free pledge

Learn more about the risk factors for suicide

If you know of others, let us know below!

Support SOVA in Suicide Prevention

Hi SOVA stakeholders!

We are reposting this today in an effort to reach our fundraising goal! Please give at least $5 if you can – every little bit counts. Even $25 funds a suicide loss survivor attending their local International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day (ISOSL) event.

On August 27th, our team will be participating in the Out of Darkness Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Funds raised by this walk go to funding suicide prevention advocacy, research like how risks in LGBT populations differ,  educational resources to prevent suicide in specific communities such as physicians and medical students, as well as resources and peer support for those affected by suicide.

Please donate and help us make a difference! If you are interested in joining our team, feel free to sign up! Thank you!

Summer Research Student Day 2016

Yesterday was the 2016 Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Summer Student Research Poster Day. Our summer students, Amie and Anh presented their posters on the SOVA Project.

Amie spent this summer working  hard on engaging youth and parents to check out the sites, comment, and get more involved. For her poster, she looked at whether use of the site increased with some of her strategies, like doing a pet photo contest!

Anh examined our baseline data on adolescents and young adults who were involved in giving us feedback on the SOVA sites. She was specifically interested to see if characteristics of positive youth development, such as caring, correlated with depression severity.

We thank them for their awesome work and enthusiasm this summer and wish them the best of luck!

 

 

Apps for Mental Health

I’m excited to share some of our recent work with you regarding evaluating smartphone applications for mental health.

Our article published in this month’s edition of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking examines a group of popular mental health apps and characterizes them, based on their app store descriptions. We looked at what the purpose of these apps seemed to be for: were they for symptom relief or just education, for example? Also we wanted to know did they seem to cover the bases regarding what types of mental health information would be important for mental health app consumers – like letting consumers know whether the app is evidence based or whether it protects their privacy. Like others in the field, we think it is important for clinicians to talk to their patients about what apps they might be using for their mental health. And to sit down together to look into whether the app is actually helpful or not.

This article on fastcompany.com talks about the multiple stakeholders involved in developing mental health apps and how their views on the best approach may differ. This is why sometimes the individual may need to do some more work on their end before knowing whether an app will be useful to them.

On sova and wisesova, each Friday we post about online resources. Recently we highlighted myhealthapps.net. This is a site which uses patient reviews to help others decide whether to try out an app or not.  We also asked our online communities on sova to try out apps and let others know if they found them useful.

Of course, there is much more to ask about and learn on this topic, and we hope our recent article is a conversation-starter!

Supporting Our Valued Adolescents