University of Cambridge > > Department of Psychiatry & CPFT Thursday Lunchtime Seminar Series > Digital Youth: understanding risk, building resilience and harnessing solutions with young people in the digital world

Digital Youth: understanding risk, building resilience and harnessing solutions with young people in the digital world

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This seminar will be held in-person and online

Abstract: Being online and using social media has become integral to young people’s lives and creates both risks as well as opportunities for youth mental health. Key research questions in this space include how to identify the mechanisms underpinning online mental health harms, which young people are most at risk, how to build online resilience and create effective online mental health support and interventions. We face a youth mental health crisis, exacerbated by the covid pandemic and associated restrictions, with one in six young people suffering from a mental health disorder with rates of self-harm increasing three-fold over the last decade [NHS Digital]. Given that around 70% of young people with mental health problems receive no help at all – digital online support and interventions have been seen as part of the solution to increase access to help. However, to date, very few digital interventions and apps have a research evidence base, and those that do struggle to be implemented in the NHS . In this presentation I will outline our 4-year UKRI /MRC funded interdisciplinary Digital Youth research programme and summarize developments from two novel tools. I will briefly outline early findings on a project investigating Socially Assistive Robots for emotion regulation in young people at risk of self-harm. I will then discuss in depth the development of the CaTS-APP, a novel, co-created self-harm assessment tool. I will outline how Responsible Research Innovation (RRI) and Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) are embedded in this work.

Biography: Professor Ellen Townsend holds a B.A. (Hons) from the University of Leeds and a PhD from the University of Nottingham. Before joining Nottingham as a Lecturer in 2001 she spent three years as a post-doctoral researcher in the Centre for Suicide Research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford. Ellen leads the Self-Harm Research Group in the School of Psychology and is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Mental Health in Nottingham. For more information on Prof Townsend, please visit:

This talk is part of the Department of Psychiatry & CPFT Thursday Lunchtime Seminar Series series.

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