Being a dad and sharing the house with teenagers, it’s easy to see how technology appeals to them in their everyday life. My daughter Gila (pictured to the right of the photo, with me and her sister), has recently introduced me to the wonders of Facebook, and I am amazed at the different ways people communicate across a variety of mediums. Not only is it the method of communication, but also the way they use words, pictures or videos to impart a message or a feeling. It is a truly awesome and powerful tool.
Young people have been brought up immersed in this interactive digital social environment, and they seem completely at home talking and interacting in cyberspace. We need to embrace and harness the power of this new and interactive way of communicating; to reach out to young people, for whom this is as natural as picking up the phone for ‘oldies’ like me!
Another one of my teenagers (I am surrounded by them!) recently wanted to go abroad. I was amazed at his prowess, at not only organising tickets, accommodation and transport (I could probably manage that), but also how he investigated his options in travelling, looked for what others had said about the proposed trip and reacted to feedback.
We are truly living in a time of revolution, empowering people to look after themselves in a way that might only have been dreamt of previously.
When we are thinking about commissioning new services, it’s really important that we harness the power of self-care and the information revolution, and that services are geared around the needs of, and accessible to the people they are put in place for. That’s what we’ve done with Big White Wall.
Traditionally support for people experiencing mental health issues is provided face to face or in print, Big White Wall complements this support through an anonymous online community for young people in Bury aged between 16 and 25, supporting the estimated 1 in 10 young people who will experience a mental health issue such as anxiety or depression.
Big White Wall launched in Bury this month, and by simply putting in their postcode at http://www.bigwhitewall.com – young people can access this supportive, anonymous online community, share their experiences and express themselves in words and images – the images members create themselves in the form of ‘bricks’. Trained counsellors are available 24/7 to offer support and to keep the community safe which is really reassuring.
Big White Wall is completely anonymous, and members create a user name which does not identify them in any way. This can help reduce stigma and encourage them to open up, we know it can work really well based on successes in other areas, where around half of young people using Big White Wall reported sharing an issue troubling them for the first time.
I’m really confident that given the appeal of online and social media, Big White Wall has every chance to be a hit with young people in Bury, providing them with a positive outlet to share the way they feel and in turn helping them start to take control and get the support they need to feel better.
Thanks for reading this month’s blog.
Dr. Jeff Schryer, GP and Mental Health Lead for NHS Bury CCG