Instagram – The Most Harmful App for Mental Health

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Instagram is the worst social media app for young people’s mental health, according to a new report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

RSPH and the Young Health Movement (YHM) have published a new report, #StatusOfMind, examining the positive and negative effects of social media on young people’s health, including a league table of social media platforms according to their impact on young people’s mental health.

In early 2017, RSPH/YHM conducted a survey of almost 1,500 young people (aged 14-24) from across the UK. The survey asked them to score how each of the social media platforms they use impacts upon 14 health and wellbeing-related issues which were identified by experts as the most significant.

The 14 health and wellbeing-related issues were:

  1. Awareness and understanding of other people’s health experiences
  2. Access to expert health information you know you can trust
  3. Emotional support (empathy and compassion from family and friends)
  4. Anxiety (feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease)
  5. Depression (feeling extremely low and unhappy)
  6. Loneliness (feelings of being all on your own)
  7. Sleep (quality and amount of sleep)
  8. Self-expression (the expression of your feelings, thoughts or ideas)
  9. Self-identity (ability to define who you are)
  10. Body image (how you feel about how you look)
  11. Real world relationships (maintaining relationships with other people)
  12. Community building (feeling part of a community of like-minded people)
  13. Bullying (threatening or abusive behaviour towards you)
  14. FoMO (Fear of Missing Out – feeling you need to stay connected because you are worried things could be happening without you)

Based on the ratings young people gave to each platform for each of the health and wellbeing-related issues, the five most popular platforms were given a net average score which were used to establish the league table rankings:

  1. YouTube (most positive)
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook
  4. Snapchat
  5. Instagram (most negative)

Social Media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol and is now so embedded in young people’s lives that it is difficult to say it is not affecting their mental health. From the list of health and wellbeing related issues, there are both positive and negatives that have come out of the survey. It is interesting that the two most negative social media platforms (Instagram and Snapchat) are image focused. These platforms will be a huge contributing factor to why young people have expressed anxiety relating to body image.

It is important to say that young people are also having positive experiences from Social Media such as accessing vital health information that they know they can trust. Young people are also able to start and maintain relationships via social media, especially with friends or family who are based internationally.

By Reece Hobson


Social Sense partakes in Mindfulness World Record!

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Mindful Manchester…has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Manchester is widely known as the city of innovation and creativity, so it is no surprise that the Guinness World Record attempt for the most number of people practising mindfulness at once took place in Manchester last weekend.

Organised by mental health charity Self Help together with the Whitworth Art Gallery on Oxford road, the event saw 272 people attend, beating the previous world record of 250 people (although this is still to be confirmed by Guinness World Record representatives).

The hour-long session began with a welcome from the Charity and Art Gallery, and an introduction to mindfulness –  which is simply paying attention to the present moment in a compassionate and non-judgemental way. We then took part in an exercise called the body scan, during which we were instructed to pay attention to breathing, and notice feelings and sensations in different parts of our bodies with a kind curiosity.

We then had a discussion around making everyday activities mindful (suggestions included eating, walking and even dancing), so as to develop the ability to root ourselves in the present moment rather than focussing on worrying or thinking about the future/past. The final exercise was the 3-minute breathing space – a short practice which is designed to refresh and relax yourself and bring your attention back to the present moment.

The mindfulness teachers from Self Help who lead us through the exercises were very skilled and calming, and the surroundings of the impressive Whitworth Art Gallery which was renovated 2 years ago, helped to create a tranquil and reflective atmosphere for the session.

Social Sense’s Neena (Programmes Manager) and Reece (Programmes Executive) attended the Guinness World Record attempt.


I was amazed and delighted to see the range of participants – it was great to see people from all different ages, backgrounds, and stages of their mindfulness practice. Having practiced meditation for around 6 years and attended meditation retreats in the UK and Portugal, I was really keen to take part in the event. Personally, mindfulness has helped me cope with the stresses and anxieties of life, so much so that I feel like a different person from how I was a few years ago. This has even led to me now working in mental health delivering mindfulness in schools around the region as part of Mindful Me:

I left the event feeling very relaxed and peaceful and would attend any similar events in the future – thanks so much to Self Help and the Whitworth Art Gallery for organising this brilliant event!


After discussing the benefits that Neena has personally received from Mindfulness, I thought it would be a good idea to go down and give it a try. As a ‘newbie’ I was slightly nervous due to the amount of people, however the coaches made you feel at ease. I also was very surprised by the different stages, from beginners to mindfulness pros, that attended the event.

I really enjoyed the experience and signed up for a further 8-week course to start my mindfulness journey.

Social Sense understands and appreciates the benefits that mindfulness can have on people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health so it is great to see such a high turnout. Thank you to Self Help and the Whitworth Art Gallery for organising such a great event!

By Neena Agravat & Reece Hobson.

Children and Young People’s Mental Health — The Role of Education

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As the pressures on our children and young people are ever-increasing, their mental health and emotional well being has never been more at risk. As they transition in to their teenage years, exams, social media and bullying all play their part. So, it was with great interest that the Health and Education Select Committees released a report on the importance of the role of schools regarding mental health. 50% of adult mental illnesses start before the age of 15 and 75% have started before 18, so it makes sense that education settings can have a significant impact on their young people.

“Schools and colleges have a front-line role in promoting and protecting children and young people’s mental health and well-being. Education and mental health services need to work closely together to plan the most effective way of improving children and young people’s mental health and well-being.”

House of Commons (2 May 2017).

The committee believe that the school should have a more active role in helping young people with their mental health. They state the critical importance of a whole-school working approach to promote the wellbeing of young people. It is refreshing to see in the report the view that emotional wellbeing should not just be kept to PHSE lessons but rather be taught as part of the whole curriculum.

It is also the believe that a joined-up approach with local services to deliver mental health support will be beneficial in the long term. This is crucial as with the cut to public health spending, all services need to integrate more effectively to provide the correct treatment to young people.

In the report, the evidence received suggests that senior leadership teams in schools and colleges acknowledge that they are responsible for the promotion of the wellbeing but it is not afforded sufficient priority.

Workforce training is seen as crucial to the school’s role in mental health. Although teachers are not trained professionals, they have a significant role to play in identifying mental health problems and signposting the young people to the appropriate services.

This report was due to be longer with more recommendations however this was interrupted by the call for the General Election. In summary however, the Committee has realised the importance of the role schools should be playing in helping young people’s mental health. Social Sense hopes that when the new Government is formed in June that this stance will be taken, allowing a change in attitudes towards early intervention programmes in schools.

By Reece Hobson.

What does the General Election mean for Mental Health?

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Ahead of the snap general election, we want all political parties to commit to investing in additional and sustained funding for mental health services; both for adults and young people. This should also involve a significant improvement in funding and support for early intervention programmes in schools and colleges.

The incoming Government firstly should pledge to treat mental and physical health the same; as the Conservatives have previously pledged.

The stigma of mental illness is lifting. More people are coming forward to share their experiences and receiving a sympathetic response instead of a negative one. With the help of big campaigns such as Heads Together, promoted by the Royal Family, mental health has finally received the mainstream coverage it deserves, however, there is still a long way to go.

Despite the promise of more funding, cuts to services continue. The crisis in social care provision means over-stretched A&Es are becoming the place for those suffering a mental health crisis to turn to. Funding is the single biggest issue to mental health services with 57% of CCG’s stating that they will be reducing their spending.

We believe there should also be tougher checks on the local Clinical Commissioning Groups, ensuring that they are spending the extra £1.4bn allocated to mental health until 2020 on its intended target. Young Minds revealed in December 2016, that some of the CCG’s have “siphoned off” the additional cash to cover the spending cuts and fund other services in physical health.

What’s more is that, seven in ten children and teenagers with severe mental health problems are being treated in hospitals far from home, with some sent hundreds of miles. This is no doubt due to cuts in the mental health budget however long-term this alone would be detrimental to young people’s emotional wellbeing and is just unacceptable.

If we are going to truly develop a mentally healthy society, we must begin with a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention; equipping our children and young people with the tools to help themselves become emotionally stronger and more resilient; especially as half of adult mental health problems start before the age of 14.

So, with 8 June looming, what are the political parties’ manifestos regarding mental health and in particular, how will that potentially affect our children?


  • All primary and secondary schools in England will be provided with mental health first aid training for staff.
  • Plans to scrap the 1983 Mental Health Act in a bid to reduce the number of detentions.
  • Hire 10,000 extra NHS staff by 2020.


  • Additional funding for child and adolescent mental health services.
  • A commitment to counselling provision in every school would form part of drive to improve child health.

Liberal Democrats:

  • An extra penny on income tax at all levels to deal with chronic underfunding the NHS.

Green Party:

  • Pledge Equal Treatment for Physical and Mental Health
  • Maximum 28 day wait to see psychological services.
  • Reverse the Tory government’s failed policies to tackle the factors that contribute to poor mental health, like housing shortages, rising poverty, and cuts to public services.
  • Introducing new ‘awareness and empathy education’ in schools to prevent bullying.

Whichever party comes to power, there needs to be a commitment to move funds upstream and to “invest” rather than “spend” on early intervention and prevention services and programmes, and that begins with children and young people.

By Reece Hobson.

Empowering 5,000 teenagers to take control of their emotional health and wellbeing

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mindful-meOver a year ago, we created Mindful Me as a response to the growing reports of anxiety and self-harm rates that young people were telling us in surveys1 ran through our R U Different? programme. Read the rest of this entry »

An exciting year ahead for Social Sense

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Firstly, we hope you all had a good festive break and we wish everyone a Happy New Year!

It’s easy to feel gloomy in January now Christmas is over and it’s back to pre-sunrise alarm calls, but it is a great time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to future plans.

2016 was great for us; an office relocation, new website launch, award win and the team doubling in size are amongst some of our achievements.

This year is set to be an even busier one and we wanted to remind you about the fantastic programmes that we will be running across the UK: Read the rest of this entry »

There’s more than one way to build resilience

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By Gary Lovatt

Working intensively with partners from Health, Crime and Education it’s hard to get through a meeting these days without the mention of needing to build ‘better resilience’ in young people.

Indeed it’s refreshing that after years of apparent compartmentalisation of behaviours into different areas (alcohol, smoking, sexual activity, anti-social behaviour, self-harming etc) we’re learning that attitudes and behaviours generally start with addressing the protective factors that allow young people to make better, informed choices.

So how do you achieve and measure resilience? The answer is that you need to adopt a multi-targeted strategy, starting with examining the determinants of those behaviours in more detail. Read the rest of this entry »