This week a report by Talking Taboos was released, “Talking Self Harm”, in collaboration with leading teen mental health charity, YoungMinds. Talking Taboos is a cross-Cello campaigning brand, designed to leverage Cello’s experience and resources in health, insight and communications to help tackle the stigma around issues where embarrassment, fear or ignorance can stop sufferers from seeking help. As part of the Cello family of companies, we had the opportunity to participate in this important piece of research.
The first focus for Talking Taboos was self-harm amongst young people – an issue that effects an alarming number of young people, but one where stigma, ignorance and fear can often stop sufferers from seeking help and support.
We were able to get involved in the research process using our proprietary social media monitoring tool, Pulsar. This was an invaluable opportunity to use our expertise in social media research and discourse analysis to provide insight into this topic.
What were we looking to understand?
We all know that the online world has become a regular part of young peoples’ lives. And we know the role that online channels play for young people in terms of sharing, information seeking and connection. What was unclear at the start of this process, though, was how self harm was being talked about in the online space, not only from the perspective of sufferers, but also those indirectly effected, such as peers, authorities, news sources and celebrities. In order to understand how self harm is talked about, we needed to be able to analyse the online space to form a 360 degree picture.
What did we do?
We developed a lexicon of search terms in conjunction with YoungMinds and then used Pulsar to track mentions and conversations focused on self harm across a range of social media channels.
The data brought back already started to throw up some key insights and thought starters – it became very obvious that few authority figures were driving any supportive conversations around self harm in social media. Moreover, many mentions fell to jokey, mocking memes or evocations of stereotypes that were primarily shared by other young people.
This only formed part of the story though. There was a need for us to further explore what was being said, who was saying it, and how they were talking across different sites of interest. This required a further phase of social media discourse analysis, one that primarily focused on communities and forums where sufferers were seen to engage with each other and develop their own support structures.
This analysis helped to bring nuance to the data we had uncovered using Pulsar, and allowed us to understand the gap between where sufferers were talking, and where everyone else was.
The findings from social media were illuminating and provided strong stimulus and thought-starters that helped to inform the rest of the research framework. These insights were joined with those from online qualitative discussions with GPs, 121 interviews with young people, parents, teachers and HCPs and medical literature reviews for the final report.
From looking at the report, it’s clear that there are some strong findings, and a lot of food for thought about how we should go about tackling the stigma of self harm, and how we can better enable young people to address their problems and seek help.
Moreover, Talking Taboos has proved a great example of what we at Face call Augmented Research: gaining a deeper, richer and more immersive understanding of a topic by layering different data sets and experiences together.
And beyond that, it’s been great for us to use our skills in a way that can hopefully have an influence on the lives of young people in a positive way.