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!
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!
If you are someone who likes to share blog articles you enjoy with your social network, feel free to look through our articles on sova.pitt.edu (intervention site for adolescents) and wisesova.pitt.edu (intervention site for parents). We were excited to share with you a couple weeks ago the reasons we opened up our blogs so that anyone can read the articles. If they would like to comment, then they have to log-in and enter the study. The current phase of the study is to get feedback on the sites to continue to improve them, and to build our user community.
We’ve added easy to use share buttons at the bottom of each blog article, so feel free to share away even if you are not in the study! Thanks for your continued support!
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!
More than 12 percent of people in the United States—almost 42 million—are between the ages of 10 and 19. The differences in age and biological sex matter when treating adolescents as maturity levels and hormones increase dramatically with age in these years and vary with biological sex as well.
A Picture of Adolescent Healthfocuses on: Physical Health and Nutrition, Mental Health, Reproductive Health, Substance Abuse, Educational Attainment, and Healthy Relationships.
This break down of information is a great way to see the population we are working with and to see some current trends in their health outcomes.
from HHS: The Changing Face of America’s Adolescents
At SOVA project we primarily are focusing on mental health, and found it interesting that 30% of of high school students in 2013 had symptoms of depression. Teenagers often already feel alone in their life, and this population may feel even more alienated. Part of our goal at SOVA is to connect adolescents with each other so they see that they are not alone, and that they don’t have to feel ashamed of their illness.
We also found it interesting that 20% of total adolescents have been bullied. Part of our social media strategy is to address positive relationships and online bullying.
Overall we’re excited that the Department of Human Services has enacted this division and that they have provided many more interesting statistics than we have here.
Tell us what you think – did you visit the website? Is this information useful or insightful to you as a clinician, researcher, or advocate?
Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.
In this short animated video she explains the four qualities of empathy: perspective taking, staying out of judgement, recognizing emotion in other people, and communicating that emotion. She goes on to explain, very concisely, how to implement them.
Using empathy is incredibly important in the work we are doing with the SOVA project. While our feasibility study is in full swing, we are seeing comments and connection with our websites. As providers we remain cognizant of our clients needs and emotions as they open up to us.
We recently shared this video on our project websites – what do you think? Did Dr Brown hit the nail on the head? Tell us what you think in the comments!
Recently the JED Foundation published research on parent knowledge and attitudes in regards to their children’s mental health. We were interested in this article because it directly relates to our work with the SOVA studies.
They asked parents about their knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions about stigma of accessing mental health care; they also asked their opinion about the role of colleges in mental health care. This is an important research topic we know little about and which can inform parents how to help their children, especially those with mental health problems, transition to college. It can be difficult for parents to understand what is normative in college transition versus not. One example is many college students experience lack of sleep – how do you know if its just a fact of life in college? or a symptom of a mental illness? It’s important to know how to pick up on early signs of emotional distress that can sometimes come out during this transition.
Emotional disorders are very common in college: The health status of emerging young adults (age 18 to 26) is a major concern facing our nation. These “new adolescents”:
face greater behavioral and non-behavioral health risks than either adolescents aged 12-17 or young adults aged 26-34. Overall, emerging young adults have the highest rates of motor vehicle injury and death, homicide, mental health problems, sexually transmitted infections and substance abuse
compared to those two age groups, emerging young adults often have the lowest perception of risk and
this age group has the least access to care and has the highest uninsured rate in the United States (from: usc.edu)
Although most parents feel that they are able to identify signs of depression in their college-age children, they actually have deficits in knowledge when asked to identify symptoms of depression without prompting. “Only 3.4% of parents identified suicidal thoughts as a sign of depression and only 15% of parents were able to name more than one or two signs” (JED foundation, 2008). Parents were least comfortable discussing mental health, especially suicidal thoughts and other health topics.
SOVA and wiseSOVA aim to increase knowledge, improve parent-adolescent communication around mental health, and connect families with available resources, including the JED foundation to promote healthy transitions!
Meet Katilin Glover, one of our Master of Social Work graduate interns. We interviewed Katilin to find out a little more about her as well as gain some insight about our project.
What are your educational aspirations?
I am working on my Master’s in Social Work with a certificate in mental health. Someday, I would also like to enter a doctoral program. I am interesting in working with young children or adolescents in the mental health field. I am also interested in research about the LGBTQ community and how it affects mental health.
Where do you see yourself in your career 10 years from now?
I see myself having a job in the field of research or clinical populations. I also will hopefully be close to receiving my doctorate. One of my main goals is to move to North Carolina after graduating because I love the weather!
What personal goals are you working toward right now?
I’m working on graduating with my MSW. I am also in the process of converting to a more active and healthy lifestyle by running 4 miles a day, lifting, and eating better foods!
What do you like about the SOVA project?
I think it’s awesome that we are trying to create an online community. There are so many barriers for treatment and by creating an online environment we can increase the avenues to access greatly. I love the idea of people being able to communicate with others who are feeling just like them, with just the click of a button.
What do you think are some of the barriers to the project gaining speed?
I think with any new project starting out, it’s hard to find the first few individuals that are going to use the site. I have confidence that it will pick up tremendously once people get to know navigating the website and feel comfortable sharing personal experiences anonymously.
What do you think are some of the strengths the project already has?
The SOVA research team is such an awesome and motivated group of people! It really makes working on this project enjoyable and exciting. The SOVA and WISESOVA pages are also very user friendly. The information is very interesting and I can see it helping a lot of people!