Our article on Depressed adolescents’ positive and negative use of social media is one of the most downloaded articles from Journal of Adolescence!
Recently, Dr. Radovic and colleague Dr. Megan Moreno co-edited a book on Technology and Adolescent Mental Health. This book features multiple leading minds in the field, summarizing the latest data and offering a balanced view on issues such as social media use in depressed teens, technology use among special populations, cyberbullying, multitasking, internet gaming disorder, and games and mental health. Each chapter finishes with a case-based example meant to help clinicians seeing adolescents for mental health concerns inquire and consider their technology use.
Lastly, we are grateful to the hard work of Cassandra Long, MSW, LSW who has moved on from her role as the main SOVA research assistant to pursue her clinical career goals at the University of Pittsburgh counseling center. Also, Congrats to our graduating psychology student seniors, Lindsay Bloomingdale and Maeve Clair! Thank you to Julia Bickerstaff, Veronica Zhang, and Jennifer Matesa. Jen will be staying on as the SOVA Peer Ambassador Leader!
We hope to share more updates with you all in the summer.
“If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
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?
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:
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.”
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!
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!
This week we tried out using a more provocative title on our sites, “When I grow up, I don’t want to be like you.” This title is meant to grab the reader’s attention, but the context of the article is bringing up the issue of worrying you will “turn into” a relative who has a similar problem with mental illness. We hope the article makes readers think about how they are a unique individual and even though mental illness can run in families, they are the captain of their own ship. In addition for adolescents, if they are in treatment, it is likely that they are receiving it earlier than their relatives did – as it takes an average of 10 years! to get into treatment for mental illness. Check out these posts on our adolescent site, sova.pitt.edu and on our parent site, wisesova.pitt.edu.
In other news, SOVA is now on Instagram! If you have an account, please follow us at sovaproject.
Anyone can look through and read all the blog articles on sova and wisesova!
This week, we opened our sites so that the blog post articles are no longer log-in only.This means if you go to our site for adolescents (sova.pitt.edu) or our site for parents (wisesova.pitt.edu), anyone can look through and read all the blog articles. Also if anyone would like to subscribe to receive the daily blog articles, they can enter their name in the subscribe box on the homepages of each site.
So when do you have to log-in? How do people enter the study?
If someone would like to comment, then they will have to log in. If it is their first time to log in, they will have to register. They will have to wait until our study team approves them as a user after registering before they can log on to the site. Depending on the phase of our study, they may or may not qualify as a user since all non-team users are currently part of our study.
What phase of the study are you in?
Right now we are still testing both sites for feasiblity. That means we are trying to answer: will people use them? will they like them? how can we make them better? After we complete our recruitment goals for that study, we will move to the next phase of growing the online community. We will let you know when that happens!
Why does this matter to me?
Now anyone can feel free to explore the sites!
Why did you make this change?
Making the SOVA websites is an iterative process. This means we learn what users want – make the changes – then we again ask the users what they like what they don’t like or we see which parts of the site they use and don’t use – and make more changes…over and over again. The current user feedback has led us to changing the site to be more engaging by opening up the blog articles while still making sure parts of the site are anonymous – by asking users to log-in to view others’ comments.
How can I help get the word out about sovaproject?
Feel free to share articles on your social media which speak to you!
Feel free to recommend articles you read and like to your family, friends, colleagues, patients, clients!
Last week when we attended the NAMI Southwestern PA Annual Education Conference. One of the speakers was Zach Valenti. Zach is a filmmaker, Voice Actor, and Mental Health Activist who believes that the power of communication and mindfulness are life changing.
While an undergraduate, Zach studied film and what makes people “care” in a film setting. He used these skills and tools to interact with his fellow students at organized events and created a carnival around mental health awareness. He found that adding an element of fun, meeting people where they are and engaging naturally was the best way to reframe conversations around mental health.
He started Project Uplift in 2013 as a way to “gamify” stress reduction through a neurofeedback installation piece. He wanted to make mental health fun, and not a chore. Here’s his TEDx talk about how he came up with the idea for Project Uplift.
One thing Zach announced at the NAMI conference was that Project Uplift is Open Source – free for anyone to get the plans to make their own Uplift Tower. By wearing a headset and being guided through a simple breathing exercise, when the wearer relaxes, the brainwaves trigger the fan to lift up a globe themed beach ball. By going within and uplifting themselves, they are lifting up the world.
Zach’s speech reminded us that burnout is a real issue and that leadership starts with self-care. We think that Project Uplift is a great initiative and we’re excited to share it with you!
We are excited to announce that we are now in our recruitment phase of the Supporting Our Valued Adolescents (SOVA) feasibility study! In this phase of the SOVA project we are hoping to find if it is realistic to recruit an online community of 100 users to each of our sites. This would mean 100 adolescents on our SOVA site and 100 parents of adolescents on our wiseSOVA site.
We will be recruiting:
Adolescents/Young Adults (sova.pitt.edu):
14-26 years old
experienced symptoms of anxiety and/or depression now or in the past
not have current active suicidal thoughts (have a plan to act on these thoughts) or past suicide attempts
Has an adolescent/young adult (ages 14-26) who has experienced symptoms of anxiety and/or depression now or in the past
In order to sign up all participants will need to do is register through our sites: