In this blog, Claudia García-Martínez, psychologist and PhD student in Psychology at the University of Zaragoza (Spain) discusses the role of social media in developing new approaches for suicide prevention.
Suicide has been defined as a global health priority by World Health Organization (2014). And it is not for less: it causes over 700,000 deaths every year in the world and is the fourth leading cause of death in young people aged 15-29 years. The reduction of suicide mortality is a global target and is included as an indicator in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)1.
In some way, stigma and taboo have possibly hampered a greater development of prevention strategies for decades. Now we are talking more and more about suicide and therefore, we are seeing new prevention approaches that hopefully will lead to a better prevention and intervention programs.
Until a few decades ago, research efforts have been focused on curbing suicide deaths by trying to predict their occurrence. But suicide deaths are statistically a rare event. So it has been really complex to develop sensitive tools with sufficient predictive value. Continue reading →
In this blog, Hala Najm, health promotion and adolescent health expert and senior programs associate at Mentor Arabia Foundation reflects and shares lessons learned from the experience of moving social and emotional learning programs to online platforms with children in Lebanon.
Growing up in a highly connected world, the internet has become a natural part of children’s day to day lives around the globe. It is a means that, especially during the pandemic, has helped us all socialize and stay connected. In fact, the pandemic has fuelled this digital age which seems to be the new trend. Working from home, online learning, virtual coffee breaks, happy hours, birthday events and weddings became a big hit and the new norm.
In Lebanon, working remotely was the solution to many challenges that the country was facing. Starting with civil unrest and ongoing protests; the devaluation of the local currency leading to an economic crash; the pandemic which led to the closure of many businesses; and the cherry on top was Beirut Blast, in 2020, the third-largest non-nuclear explosion in history, which left more than 200 dead and 10,000+ injured. Amid this ongoing humanitarian crisis, the mental health and wellbeing of adults as well as children and youth is greatly affected. Psychosocial support (PSS) programs are the cornerstone to help maintain a resilient generation as they pass through difficulties and overcame traumatic events1. Continue reading →
UNICEF. (2019). Mental health and psychosocial technical note. New York. [↩]
In this article, Jose López-Guerrero and Claudio Vidal Giné from ABD – Energy Control (Spain) provide their opinions on harm reduction programmes within the school setting.
It seems like a century ago, but the last Harm Reduction International Conference, held in Porto in April 2019, welcomed the words of Michelle Bachelet, the current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Chile. In her speech , she listed in a convincing way the benefits of drug policies framed within a well-being and health-oriented harm reduction perspective regarding people who use drugs. Opioid substitution treatment, syringe exchange programmes or drug consumption rooms have shown their effectiveness and usefulness where they have been applied and well-funded. However, harm reduction adapted to educational contexts is far from the implementation and recognition shown by previous schemes. Continue reading →
In this blog, Dr. Giovanni Aresi and Dr. Raven H. Weaver will discuss the societal benefits of volunteering among older adults, specifically reflecting on being a mentor for disadvantaged youth. Although mentoring has been considered as a positive youth development intervention, there has been much less attention on the effects on older volunteer mentors’ well-being.
Healthy ageing as a key priority for our society
Individuals are living longer than ever before, posing a challenge in respect of increased risk of developing physical and mental illness, but also creating new opportunities for older adults to remain socially engaged with and contribute to society. The WHO defines healthy ageing as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age”.1 Having the capacity to remain engaged allows for lifelong learning, growth, agency/decision-making, and development of relationships – all of which contribute to society. Continue reading →
World Health Organization. Ageing and life-course. Available from: https://www.who.int/ageing/healthy-ageing/en/. [↩]
In this blog, Dr Helen Gleeson offers interesting insights on the needs of young people with a have a history of substance use who come into contact with the criminal justice system in the UK. Curious? Read on.
In the UK, many young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system have some history of substance use. Most of these young people will be ordered by the police or the courts to attend a mandatory substance use program as part of their sentence or caution. Unsurprisingly, it can be difficult to engage this group in a program that they are attending in order to avoid criminal sanctions (e.g. a custodial sentence). As part of the EPPIC (Exchanging Prevention practices on Polydrug use among youth In Criminal justice systems) project, research teams have been collecting qualitative interview data from young people and professionals in substance use intervention and criminal justice settings in six European countries (UK, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Austria). In the UK, I was part of a research team that interviewed 38 young people and 25 professionals from youth offending teams (YOTs), community services, children’s services and third sector organisations who offer substance use services to young people both in and outside of the criminal justice system. Continue reading →
In this blog, Adebisi Yusuff Adebayo takes a critical look at the implementation of harm reduction measures to address the health risks related to injection drug use in Nigeria.
Despite the fact that there are numerous strong global proofs that support harm reduction strategies1,2, the coverage, adoption and implementation for people who inject drugs (PWID) is poor and Nigeria is not an exception to this. PWID constitute a considerable quota of people at-risk in Nigeria and 20% of people who use drugs are injecting drugs3. It has been reported that the most common drugs injected were pharmaceutical opioids, followed by cocaine and heroin. In Nigeria, the level of risky injecting practices and risky sexual behaviors among PWID is worrisome3. Particularly, women who inject drugs are more prone to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors compared to the male counterpart which further catalyze their risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV among other infections. This problem is doubly compounded by the criminalization of drug use and the non-adoption of evidence-based harm reduction strategies in the country. Continue reading →
Degenhardt, L., Mathers, B., Vickerman, P., Rhodes, T., Latkin, C., & Hickman, M. (2010). Prevention of HIV infection for people who inject drugs: Why individual, structural and combination approaches are needed. Lancet; 376:285–301. [↩]
MacArthur, G., Minozzi, S., Martin, N., Vickerman, P., Deren, S., Bruneau, J., et al. (2012). Opiate substitution treatment and HIV transmission in people who inject drugs: Systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal; 345:e5945. [↩]
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2018). Drug use in Nigeria 2018. Available from http://www.unodc.org/documents/nigeria//Drug_Use_Survey_Nigeria_2019_BOOK.pdf. Accessed: 10/08/2019 [↩]
In this blog, Dr Giovanni Aresi will discuss some reasons why adopting a cultural perspective is important for prevention scientists.
The 2018 conference was the first time I came in contact with the European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR). As I have done (so far) little in terms of preventive intervention development, implementation and evaluation, I was actually unsure whether or not my work on alcohol drinking cultures (i.e., schema of beliefs, practices, and values maintained by a cultural group or society regarding alcohol use) would fit into the scope of the EUSPR. I was therefore very surprised when I learnt that I was awarded the 2018 early career award for outstanding promise based on poster presentation. On second thought, in a socio-ecological perspective, culture is an important level of influence to health outcomes, and therefore needs to be taken into consideration during all stages of intervention. This makes culture an important object of interest for EUSPR members. Continue reading →
At the beginning of her academic life, Angelina Brotherhood was an urban sociologist, and this perspective still informs her work as a prevention researcher. In this blog, she presents emerging findings from her doctoral research and a possible dilemma she might soon face. Intrigued? Read on.
My doctoral research focuses on how people think about spaces in their everyday life, and how those ways of thinking relate to their substance use in those spaces. To generate data, I conducted interviews with 24 female students aged 18-26 years at the University of Vienna who reported alcohol and/or cigarette use in the last 3 months, but no use of illicit substances in the last 12 months. Continue reading →
Dr Emma L Davies is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Oxford Brookes University, UK. In this article, she updates us on a project that started as a result of a post on this blog. On the 22nd June 2016, I published a post on this blog called ‘Reflections on sober raving: alcohol free fun for further research? This post is about what happened next.
The post that started it all
The original post was about alcohol-free events that involve music and dancing, often described as ‘sober raves’ or ‘conscious-clubbing’ events. At conscious-clubbing events, the experiences are enjoyed without alcohol and other drugs. The term conscious-clubbing puts this kind of event in opposition to clubs and festivals where alcohol and other drugs are used to enhance experiences and interactions between people. A wide range of different types of events can be considered ‘conscious-clubbing’ and people have enjoyed these for many years for spiritual reasons and to improve wellness. However, our current focus was on early morning raves, and evening events that might appeal to a student population. Continue reading →
In the previous post, Boris Chapoton briefly discussed the origins of social media and its use. Social media has grown considerably since the Internet was created and it has been stated that its social nature is not only attractive to teenagers who are in a period of their life in which social bonding is crucial to construct their identity, but also that it was attractive to SM companies which generate money from providing access to the data generated by the users to other companies.
The current post focuses specifically on teenagers and the “dangers” associated with SM when it comes to being connected to other individuals. In addition, we discuss the dangers associated with SM use when economic purposes are ongoing.
When we use the term social, we talk about multiple individuals and about interaction. Ease of access for teenagers to SM has exposed them to some dangers that they may not have otherwise been come into contact with. For example;
Outside their immediate circle of friends – some individuals have developed complex strategies to gain trust, to access personal information, and to take advantage of other people (e.g.: the creation of fake profiles).
Peers – teenagers could be harmful towards each other (e.g. forwarding private pictures) and bullying at school can be now transposed online, giving (hypothetically) no rest for the teen to “breathe” and be able to construct a positive identity;
The individual themselves – posting and sharing information on SM could be associated with expectations that could be hard to reach when comparing oneself to others. Subsequently, their sense of reality could be impaired from the content they view, and maladaptive behaviours could develop (e.g. eating disorders, substance misuse).
However, more than these more or less known dangers that could be associated to SM use, some other “tricky dangers” have to be taken into consideration.
Teenagers within the economic side of SM
As previously stated within the 1stpost, private companies are looking at specific data from the users in order to target them specifically to sell their product. We can easily understand the importance of these data; the more a brand can get closer to its audience, the more the audience will associate itself to the brand and will spread its use through its SM, advertising the product towards their peers (see figure I). The commercial impact associated with such relations is more powerful than a simple advertisement on a billboard: people are more willing to rely on the advice and experience of any other individual rather than believing a marketing campaign
Regarding teenagers, youth have been targeted as a powerful source of potential buyers and its economic impact is major for some companies. When you associate to this fact to the desirable effect of belonging for teenagers that we mentioned within the previous post, SM could be a great opportunity for companies to communicate about their product and to potentially increase the number of buyers:
A company wants to sell its product to teenagers. It associates its use to friendship and popularity. Teenagers believe that this product will help them to reach both of these. As such, they share a post on their SM associating a part of their life with the product being used. Their contacts positively react to such a post, and the more reactions their contacts and them get to see in relation to the post, the more impact its content will have and potentially make the contacts to buy the product “advertised”.
As such, while “surfing” on their SM, being entertained and enjoying posts and stories from their contacts or desirable figures’ (e.g. Celebrity), teenagers could be influenced by the content of the messages posted within the SM, so is the case with product placement within classical media (TV program, video clips, etc.).
Connecting the dots – the example of Snapchat
We said that economy has integrated the SM world. SM are not only website or applications that help you to get in contact with someone else, they are also companies that generate money and have to be competitive to do so. They get to know what makes one use their media and stay on it, so they can sell advertisement opportunities to companies.
If we take the example of Snapchat, this application is used on a daily basis by more than 158 million people, predominantly young people. Snapchat is answering to both teenagers’ and companies’ expectations.
In order to make teenagers use the application, Snapchat underlines the values of friendship and belonging sought by teenagers. To underline such relationships, meaningful emoji have been created to appear next to one’s contact pseudo. The emoji could take the form of different smileys, more or less “positive”:
As for example, if you have a “face with sunglasses” next to the pseudo of a contact, it means that you are the one that sends the most snap to the person and vice-versa; however, if it is a “grimacing face” that you have, it means that your best snapchat friend has someone else other than you as a best snapchat friends.
In order to make sure that people would use the application to generate data and to be able to grant companies access to teenagers, Snapchat has developed different interactive and funny gimmicks that are constantly renewed. They take the form of filters that could be associated to the photos taken (e.g. dog ears and tongue integrated to the face that appears on the picture) or the form of trophies to obtain depending on the use people have of the application (if you verify your phone number you have the phone trophy, if you send a snap between 4am and 5am, you have the fried egg trophy). But not only is Snapchat using these attractive gimmicks that could be sponsored by some companies’ brand, it also uses the friendship value to make people to use the application again and again, which could be more questionable:
People have the possibility to generate a fire/flame with their contacts. To do so, they have to send each other a snap for at least 3 days in a row, and they have to keep sending each other one snap minimum every 24 hours otherwise the flame would disappear and the number cumulated.The more often people communicate through snaps, the higher the number associated to the flame will be. This will demonstrate the strong relationship people have between each other. If you manage to snap back and forth for 100 days in a row with one of your contacts, the number “hundred” appears next to the flame.
At a time where friendship is important and insecurity could emerge easily, some teenagers could take the loss of a number or the lack of reciprocity within the intensity to which snaps are sent very personally…
Then, are SM scary?
The unknown could be scary, and here is perhaps the problem; we do not know what exactly happens on SM when someone is connected to THE WORLD. But we could say that the world is scary as well. Thinking about it, what more could happen to teenagers on SM than in “reality”? If you talk to people over the age of 25 about their teenage years you could ask if they were facing a different risk than the current generation? Wasn’t there a generation that were warned about the danger of listening to rock’n’roll music, to Elvis or to the Beatles? Wasn’t there a generation that could have faced the risk of losing their mental capacity if they were watching Reality shows?
We talk about the millennium generation, the digital one and so on. New generations are born with new technologies and get to learn about their use perhaps faster than the oldest (if not for sure). When talking with teenagers about the risk they could be facing on SM, they are not as naïve as one could think. Some would “recite” what they have been taught about the internet dangers, some would talk about problems they or friends have faced and how they have handle them with the help of friends or trusted relatives. However, what should be questioned is the extortion of friendship as a way of making money, especially for teenagers which rely on it to build their self-esteem.
It is important to keep monitoring what is going on social networks sites and reveal manipulative strategies that people could not know about, the obvious and non-obvious ones (see example below). As you make sure a child knows to look left/right/leftbefore crossing a road or how to come back to the house. Rather than forbidding youth to embrace new habits and possibilities, we should make sure that they feel confident enough to share any problem they are confronted with and give them the capacity to overcome them. However, we shouldn’t put aside the amazing opportunities that the Internet could provide. As mentioned at the start: discovering others, not being alone, sociability, counting on each other and learning from them.
Two different types ofdanger that could be found on SM. Is one more obvious than the other?
La Ferle, C., Li, H., Edwards, S.M. (2001) An overview of teenagers and television advertising in the United States. International Communication Gazette, 63(1): 7-24 https://doi.org/10.1177/0016549201063001002
Russell, C.A.; Régnier Denois, V., Chapoton, B., Buhrau, D. (2017) Impact of Substance Messages in Music Videos on Youth: Beware the Influence of Connectedness and Its Potential Prevention-Shielding Effect. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 78(5): 674-683. DOI: 10.15288/jsad.2017.78.674