Designing Technologies to Support Young People’s Online Help-Seeking for Mental Health Difficulties

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Title: Designing Technologies to Support Young People’s Online Help-Seeking for Mental Health Difficulties
Authors: Pretorius, Claudette
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Date: 2021
Online since: 2022-05-16T10:09:43Z
Abstract: The mental health of young people aged 12 to 25 is of key concern at a global level, with the emergence of many mental illnesses taking place during this time. Help-seeking is recognized as an important protective factor in young people’s mental health. Evidence suggests that positive help-seeking experiences contribute to an increased likelihood of future help-seeking and improved mental health outcomes. However, help-seeking is a complex process, often impeded by a number of barriers. Alongside traditional sources, digital technologies offer additional pathways to help but also introduce unique challenges, that have to date not yet been explored. Young people face unique challenges in finding help appropriate to their level of need. This thesis provides an in-depth investigation of young people’s needs from technologies that facilitate the online help-seeking process. Through a series of studies, empirically grounded guidelines for online help-seeking tools have been developed and are presented. The research in this thesis provides insight into the online help-seeking experiences of young people, the opportunities technology provide as well as its challenges. It details a mixed-methods, user-centred approach, using techniques from both the health and Human Computer Interaction domains, to explore sensitive topics with young people. The Centre for eHealth Research Roadmap (CeHRes Roadmap) was used as a framework to guide the research. Four studies were conducted in order to achieve the thesis aims: a narrative systematic literature review; a large-scale online survey; a co-design study; and finally, a user study to evaluate design recommendations. Building on prior theories this thesis provides a consolidated, theoretically grounded model to understand the online help-seeking process. This model makes use of Rickwood’s help-seeking model to illustrate the online help-seeking process and Self-Determination Theory to identify key design elements that can either facilitate or impede online help-seeking. The design recommendations presented in this thesis can be applied to both help-seeking tools and online mental health resources. The five recommendations include: provide opportunities for connectedness; provide credible and accessible information; provide personalization, but respect autonomy; provide ‘just-in-time’ support options; and emphasize clear, professional design. Resources that meet these recommendations will better meet the online help-seeker’s needs; contribute positively to online help-seeking experiences; and facilitate the identification of resources that are both engaging and provide appropriate levels of care.
Type of material: Doctoral Thesis
Publisher: University College Dublin. School of Computer Science
Qualification Name: Ph.D.
Copyright (published version): 2021 the Author
Keywords: Young peopleHelp-seekingMental healthInternet
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
This item is made available under a Creative Commons License:
Appears in Collections:Computer Science Theses

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