Minister Fitzgerald launches conference and highlights benefits of new technologies
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, yesterday (Thursday, 26 September) opened the Technology for Well-Being International Conference, which examines the role of technology in supporting young people’s mental health and well-being. New research launched at the conference revealed thatover two thirds of Irish parents (70%) would look for help on the internet if their child was going through a tough time. In addition, over one fifth (22%) of parents used the internet to search for mental health information in the past month alone. ReachOut.com, which provides online support for young people’s mental health and well-being, partnered with the National Office for Suicide Prevention to host this international conference attended by delegates from the health, education and technology sectors.
These findings are from the ‘Bridging the Digital Disconnect’ research carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre, NUI Galway and Inspire Ireland, the organisation behind ReachOut.com. The research project is part-funded by the Australian Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre and explores parents’ views on using technology to promote young people’s mental health.
“This is the first study to be carried out in Ireland on parents’ views concerning the use of technologies to support young people’s mental health. The findings will be used to inform the development of a resource to bridge the digital gap between parents and young people and to support parents in harnessing the potential of technologies for promoting young people’s mental health and wellbeing” says Professor Margaret Barry, principal investigator of the study with Dr Aleisha Clarke of the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway.
Speaking at the conference today, Minister Fitzgerald welcomed the new research and commended ReachOut.com and the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway on their work which she said “aides a better understanding on the role of parent and technology in youth mental.” The Minister added: “Too often media discourse on new technologies and social media focuses on negative aspects such as cyber-bullying and other online threat. But we must also focus on the opportunities which websites, such as ReachOut.com, offer in terms of providing an accessible portal to young people on key issues such as positive mental health.”
As part of the fieldwork, parents reviewed the ReachOut.com site and expressed a desire for the development of a website with similar content for parents. Parents also repeatedly spoke about the need for information on the use of social networking sites and issues around young people’s safety and well-being online.
Speaking about the results, ReachOut.com CEO Elaine Geraghty said: “We really welcome this research as an endorsement from parents of the importance of technology in all of our lives. If we’re serious about supporting young people we need to be where they are, providing mental health information in the first place they look for it, which is online. That is what we do every day at ReachOut.com.”
Gerry Raleigh, Director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP), said: “The National Office for Suicide Prevention is delighted to support this conference and recognises the importance of technology to connect with those experiencing tough times. NOSP will continue to invest in partners who deliver safe and evidence-based information and supports that contributes to positive mental health and well-being. In addition to providing online resources such as Yourmentalhealth.ie and Letsomeoneknow.ie, NOSP has invested in various online projects and initiatives including ReachOut.com.”
The ReachOut.com Technology for Well-Being International Conference addressed these concerns in order to open a national conversation on the positive role technology can play for both parents and young people, in supporting mental health.”
To view the report click: Bridging the digital disconnect