The effects of rural isolation, economic disadvantages, and lack of internet access pose unique mental health challenges for young people in western Ireland and surrounding areas. According to the 2022 Planet Youth survey, 33% of young people in counties Galway and Mayo reported self-harming. Moreover, 56% did not get enough sleep and were twice as likely to report poor mental health compared to their peers.

Compared to the other 27 European Union countries, the Republic of Ireland (ROI) as a whole has a greater prevalence of anxiety and depressive disorders, as well as ADHD, among individuals aged 10 to 24 (Gov, 2023). The Young Life and Times Survey found that the main cause of worry or stress among 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland (NI) was feeling pressured to perform well in school (ARK, 2023).

It is therefore essential to offer tools and supportive environments that cater to the specific needs of young people in the island of Ireland, building resilience and encouraging good mental health. That's the goal of our Atlantic Futures research, and why our work on digital mental health support for young people involves engaging with them in all areas of the study process.

We have already established a reference group of young people from 16 to 25 from NI and ROI to help direct and influence this research. This will guarantee that the opinions of young people and service providers are heard and will assist in shaping the work as it is being conducted.

With the abundance of digital tools available, like chatbots, virtual reality applications, and mobile apps and websites, the focus on digital technologies for mental health is highly appropriate.

Our research seeks to understand the requirements of young people in relation to digital mental health and how best to use technology to address those needs. Particularly when it comes to digital mental health, marginalised groups, such as LGBTQIA+ young people, those without jobs and without formal education, and members of the traveling community, to name a few, frequently do not have their voices heard or their needs taken into consideration.

In light of this, we would like to incorporate representation from these groups throughout the West of the island of Ireland.

We think that by using this innovative all-Island digital strategy to promote healthy mental health among young people throughout the island of Ireland, we can provide an example for how this work can be scaled and reproduced elsewhere.

The overarching goal of the project is to determine which digital mental health solutions, especially for marginalised  groups, will be effective for young people on the island of Ireland.

Two PhD research projects within the project will additionally focus on:

  • Digital mental health interventions for University students (Alba Madrid Cagigal, PhD researcher at University of Galway)
  • Digital mental health support for neurodivergent young people in the community (Jamie McNulty, PhD researcher at Ulster University)

If you would like to get involved in this work or you are keen to hear more, you can contact Courtney or Carmen

Register your details and keep up to date with Atlantic Futures.

Atlantic Futures is funded by the Higher Education Authority as part of the North South Research Programme. The project is a Shared Island partnership between Atlantic Technological UniversityUlster UniversityUniversity of Galway and University of Limerick.