New ways of enhancing online support to deal with self-harming behaviour are being explored by the University of Strathclyde, in collaboration with Scottish mental health charity Health in Mind.
The project aims to identify ways in which young people who self-harm, who are often reluctant to seek support, could access technology-enabled care, advice and access to services, to complement face-to-face support.
They will be invited to contribute to the research by confidentially discussing their experiences, the type of support and services they are seeking and challenges they have encountered in gaining access to it. The research will also investigate impact on the families of people who self-harm. A key part of the project will be its co-production approach to bringing young people, families, mental health practitioners and digital innovators together to identify technological and digital solutions and innovations for supporting young people and families.
The six-month project has received a £60,000 grant from the European Social Fund and could potentially lead to further funding to develop and test new digital ideas and innovations that have emerged from the research and development phase.
Dr Diane Pennington, a Lecturer in Strathclyde's Department of Computer and Information Sciences, is leading the study. She said: "Self-harm is often a hidden behaviour and services see only a small number of the young people who harm themselves.
"Research has highlighted difficulties that some young people have in talking to adults about this, owing to stigma or perceived judgemental attitudes. We'll be seeking innovative solutions to advance technology-enabled care for addressing unmet needs, so that they can have access to the support, advice and services they require.
"We'll be speaking to young people and will ensure they're as much at ease as possible. We'll also speak to their families, who we want to help as well; they may not know how to address self-harm, even if they know it's happening, but they could have an influence in helping to deal with it."
Steven McCluskey, Development Manager at Health in Mind highlighted the importance of this work nationally and the need to engage and support people in different and more innovative ways.
He said: "In recent years, we have seen rapid development and adoption of technologies that change our living environments and the way we live. Technology and digital media is now an integral and natural part of young people's lives, with young people utilising technologies effortlessly to access information and to connect with peers on a local and global scale.
"The Scottish Government's Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027 identifies better use of new technologies as offering opportunities to support people to manage their own mental health. At Health in Mind, we are interested in exploring and testing new ways to deliver services and support which break down traditional barriers to accessing services and information.
"Our collaboration with the University of Strathclyde provides an exciting opportunity to explore how technologies might provide more appealing ways to deliver support and information to young people and families than traditional service methods."
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2017, self-harm in young people rose between 2011 and 2014 by12.3% in boys, by 37.4% in girls and by 68% in girls aged 13 to 16.