Prioritizing young people's emotional health support needs via participatory research

J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2017 Jun;24(5):263-271. doi: 10.1111/jpm.12373.


WHAT IS KNOWN ON THIS SUBJECT?: Young people's mental health is a concern to people around the world. Good emotional health promotes mental health and protects against mental illness, but we need to know more about how to help young people look after their emotional health. We are learning that research is better if the public are involved in it, including children and young people. Therefore, we need to listen carefully to what young people have to say. In this paper, we describe some research that involved young people from start to finish. We were asking what kind of emotional health support would be useful to them. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS TO EXISTING KNOWLEDGE?: We developed a useful way to involve young people in research so their voice can be heard. Young people like to use the Internet to find emotional health support and information, but need to know which web sites they can trust. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE?: Our method of bringing young people together to tell us their views was successful. It is important to explore ways to help young people judge the quality of emotional health web sites.

Abstract: Introduction Youth mental health is a global concern. Emotional health promotes mental health and protects against mental illness. Youth value self-care for emotional health, but we need better understanding of how to help them look after their emotional health. Participatory research is relevant, since meaningful engagement with youth via participatory research enhances the validity and relevance of research findings and supports young people's rights to involvement in decisions that concern them. Aim We aimed to develop a participatory approach for involving youth in research about their emotional health support preferences. Method Our team included a young expert-by-experience. We developed a qualitative, participatory research design. Eleven youth (16-18 years) participated in focus groups, followed immediately by a nominal group exercise in which they analysed the data, thus enhancing methodological rigour. Results This process highlighted youth perspectives on self-care strategies for emotional health. Discussion and implications for practice Our simple participatory research approach generated trustworthy and credible findings, which accurately reflect youth perspectives and are consistent with the literature, endorsing our method. Young people said that they want reassurances of quality and safety when accessing digital mental health resources. These findings can inform future development of youth-oriented digital mental health resources.

Keywords: adolescent; internet; mental health; participatory research; public participation; self-care.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Community-Based Participatory Research / methods*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Needs Assessment
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research Design*