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Ruth Plackett

I have a background in psychology and completed my PhD in applied health research in 2019 at UCL. My PhD was a mixed methods evaluation of a digital intervention for medical students. I recently completed an NIHR SPHR postdoctoral launching fellowship exploring the relationship between social media use and the mental health of young people. I have also been a researcher for two charities: The Anna Freud Centre and Young People vs Cancer. My research interests are in social media and young people’s mental health, mixed methods research and evaluations of digital interventions.  

Award Title: Mental Health Fellowship

Start Date: 1st March 2022

End Date: 31st March 2024

Location of Research: London and Bristol  

Collaborating Organisations: NIHR ARC North Thames, The Young Peoples’ Mental Health Advisory Group at King’s College London, McPin, The Mental Health Foundation.  

Project Title: The benefits and harms of social media use for young adults with common mental health disorders presenting to primary care 

Brief Summary: An estimated 91% of 16-24-year-olds use social media. Evidence suggests social media can have harmful effects on young adults’ mental health but there are potential benefits including prompting help-seeking. Young adults often do not seek help for common mental health problems. However, when they do, they often present to primary care. Further research is needed to explore how social 

media can guide people to seek mental health services and how to support primary care clinicians with young adults’ concerns about social media use and mental health. 

Methods: For this fellowship I will conduct a rapid scoping review to understand effectiveness of social media campaigns to improve help-seeking for young adults with concerns about mental health. It will also explore whether social media can help to address inequalities in help-seeking by reaching those in underserved populations, such as those in deprived areas. I will also conduct qualitative interviews with primary care clinicians and young adults (aged 18-25) to explore their experiences of discussing social media use when young adults present to primary care with mental health concerns, and what support is provided. A purposive sample of clinicians and young adults from underserved communities will be recruited through NIHR ARC North Thames partner organisations, charities, schools, and universities. 

Benefits anticipated: The findings will inform recommendations for how social media can be used to improve help-seeking and address inequalities. It will contribute to developing training/guidance for primary care clinicians on how to discuss social media use with young adults with mental health concerns.