How are we to support our young people so that they feel empowered to live a life that means something to them? We can begin by listening to them. The My World Survey was designed as a structured way of listening to young people. The aim was to deepen what we know about young people’s mental health so that we can be more sensitive to their real needs.
This project was a collaboration between Headstrong and University College Dublin (UCD). It took five years (2008-2012) and was funded by the One Foundation, to whom we are deeply grateful.
Why conduct the My World Survey (MWS)?
The number one health issue for young people is their mental health. Good mental health in adolescence is a requirement for optimal psychological development, the development and maintenance of productive social relationships, effective learning, an ability to care for oneself, good physical health, and effective economic participation as adults.
Large-scale studies that capture the mental health profile of young people help us to understand their experiences and inform service provision. To date, there is a limited body of research on the prevalence of mental health difficulties among young people aged 12-25, particularly in the Irish context. Most published Irish studies provide data up to age 18, with a primary focus on negative factors. The MWS had two broad aims: to extend the age distribution up to 25 years, and to consider protective factors in conjunction with risk factors. Thus, this is the first national study of youth mental health in Ireland from age 12-25 years.
The Study Team
The My World Survey was carried out by UCD School of Psychology and was funded by Headstrong and the One Foundation. Dr. Barbara Dooley Senior Lecturer, UCD was the Principal Investigator on the project. Dr. Dooley was also Research Director with Headstrong at the time. Dr. Amanda Fitzgerald was the post-doctoral research fellow in youth mental health involved in coordinating and overseeing the completion of the My World National research. In addition, a team of nine researchers assisted with data collection and data entry. Another 21 volunteers assisted with data entry of the My World Survey.
Aims and Objectives
The main aim of the study was to build a national baseline of youth mental health in Ireland among young people aged 12 – 25 years.
The specific objectives were to:
• Identify key risk and protective factors related to mental health and wellbeing among young people in Ireland
• Compare this sample of young people to internationally published data on young people
• Profile youth mental health at a national, local, and at school levels, allowing communities and service providers to use resource appropriately
• Profile the mental health needs of those young people who are not considered ‘typically developing’
• Use data collected to build a model of resilience that could be used in prevention programmes to enhance youth mental health
• Be an accessible national archive of youth mental health data
The study involved collecting data from different groups of young people including (1) young people aged 12 – 18 years in second level education, (2) young people aged 18 – 25 years in third level education, (3) young people in FAS courses, (4) young people employed post full-time second-level education, (5) early school leavers, and (6) young people who are unemployed.
The survey contained a number of screening instruments which have each been used internationally. The My World Survey was developed by Headstrong following several months of extensive literature reviews and pilot testing, and identified key domains that are required to adequately profile the mental health status of Irish young people. These domains include both positive and negative aspects of mental health. Positive factors include: resilience, optimism, coping, social support, life satisfaction, self-esteem and help seeking behaviours. Negative factors include: stress, depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, bullying and racism.
Six themes emerged from the first analysis of The My World data:
• One good adult is important to the mental health of young people
• Excessive drinking reported by 58% of over 16 years old
• Not talking about problems is linked to suicidal behaviour
• Those who share their problems enjoy better mental health
• Many young people in distress are not seeking help
• Money is a top stressor
You can find out more about these emerging themes here.
My World Survey Publications
Title: Modeling problem behaviors in a nationally representative sample of adolescents.
Authors: O'Connor, K. L., Dolphin, L., Fitzgerald, A., & Dooley, B. Abstract: Journal of Adolescence, 50, 6-15.
Abstract: See abstract here.
Title: How psychological resources mediate and perceived social support moderates the relationship between depressive symptoms and help-seeking intentions in college students.
Authors: Kenny, R., Dooley, B., & Fitzgerald, A. Abstract: British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 1-12.
Abstract: See abstract here.
Title: Validation of the Resilience Scale for Adolescents (READ) in Ireland: a multi‐group analysis.
Authors: Kelly, Y., Fitzgerald, A., & Dooley, B. Abstract: International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research.
Abstract: See abstract here.
Title: Prevalence and correlates of psychotic like experiences in a nationally representative community sample of adolescents in Ireland.
Authors: Dolphin, L., Dooley, B., & Fitzgerald, A.
Abstract: Schizophrenia research, 169(1), 241-247. See abstract here.
Title: Adolescents’ definitions of bullying: the contribution of age, gender, and experience of bullying.
Authors: Byrne, H., Dooley, B., Fitzgerald, A., & Dolphin, L.
Abstract: European Journal of Psychology of Education, 1-16. See abstract here.
Title: Constructing the Suicide Risk Index (SRI): does it work in predicting suicidal behavior in young adults mediated by proximal factors?
Authors: O’Connor, M., Dooley, B., & Fitzgerald, A.
Abstract: Archives of suicide research, 19(1), 1-16. See abstract here.
Title: The risk and protective factors associated with depression and anxiety in a national sample of Irish adolescents.
Authors: Dooley, B., Fitzgerald, A., & Giollabhui, N. M.
Abstract: Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, 32(01), 93-105. See abstract here.
Title: Methodology on the My World Survey (MWS): a unique window into the world of adolescents in Ireland.
Authors: Dooley, B., & Fitzgerald, A.
Abstract: Early intervention in psychiatry, 7(1), 12-22. See abstract here.
Title: Alcohol and Youth Mental Health.
Authors: Fitzgerald, A. & Dooley, B
Abstract: Psychiatry Professional, 2(1), 6-8. See abstract here.