Young people need new skills to handle being on social media ‘stage’

New technology means pupils ‘cannot shut front door’ on bullying after school - Minister

Minister for Health Simon  Harris (2nd left) and Minister of State for mental health Jim  Daly (2nd right) on Tuesday  launched a report on mental health. Photograph:  Maxwell Photography.

Minister for Health Simon Harris (2nd left) and Minister of State for mental health Jim Daly (2nd right) on Tuesday launched a report on mental health. Photograph: Maxwell Photography.

 

Equipping young people with the language and skills to deal with the pressures of social media and online bullying is key to protecting their mental health, the Minister of State for Mental Health has said.

Jim Daly said social media companies such as Facebook were not doing as much they should to prevent online bullying so it was important to focus on helping young people to develop skills to cope.

“Social media very much puts children on a stage. They set themselves up and they judge themselves on the amount of likes they get on the picture, in their new outfit or whatever...” he said.

“The key to this is equipping people with the language, with the skills to know the difference to be able to articulate their fears and recognise that: ‘It’s okay to be who I am, I am okay at being who I am.’”

Mr Daly was speaking after he and Minister for Health Simon Harris launched the National Youth Mental Health Task Force Report for 2017 at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland on Tuesday.

The report makes a series of recommendations including setting up an independent advocacy and information service specifically for young people’s mental health, training programmes to help recognise signs of mental issues and supporting families to recognise youth mental health issues.

“This is not about mental illness,” Mr Harris said. “This is about recognising mental health, recognising that we all have a mental health and just like we all look after our physical health, we all need to look after and mind our mental health.”

Established last year by Mr Daly’s predecessor, Helen McEntee, the task force drew on contributions from youth and student groups, local authorities and several Government departments. The Health Service Executive, the Union of Students in Ireland and Facebook were also involved.

‘Key gap’

Prof Mary Cannon, a psychiatrist at the RCSI and Beaumont Hospital, said there was a “fragmented” approach to youth mental health and the “key gap” was between childhood and adulthood.

“If you are talking about ill health of young people, you are talking about mental ill health essentially and the problem is that our services can be fractured around the time that they are most needed,” she said.

“We need to start bridging the gaps and making a seamless process for all our young people to avoid the hazards that might occur if people through the gaps.”

Niamh Hay, a transition year coordinator at Kinsale Community School, said that the school ran a pilot skills training course to help adolescents find language to be able to talk about their emotional wellbeing.

“Students got a better vocabulary. No longer were they saying; ‘I’m grand,’” she said.

Mr Daly told reporters after the launch that social media means that young people “bring the bullying home with them” and that they “cannot shut the front door anymore” on it.

“They bring this device up to their room and they shut the bedroom door and that device stays pinging all night and whoever is getting to them can continue all night so that is the real danger,” he said.