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Loneliness and perfectionism impacting young people

Loneliness and perfectionism have emerged as the two most prominent issues affecting young people’s mental health, according to an ongoing campaign led by the University of Nottingham.

The ‘What’s Up With Everyone?’ campaign was launched in February by multi-award-winning independent studio, Aardman and led by Professor Paul Crawford from the University of Nottingham. Along with research teams at Nottingham, Loughborough University, the London School of Economics and Political Science; the Mental Health Foundation and mental wellbeing charity, Happy Space; and young people’s mental health expert, Dr Dominique Thompson.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the campaign’s series of short films have been watched over 500,000 times since launch, with social media content reaching more than five million young people in the UK and as far afield as the United States and Canada.

In just eight weeks, more than 37,000 young people aged 18 to 34 visited the What’s Up With Everyone? website developed by Aardman and its partners.

The site provides a wealth of online resources, including advice and support to those who identify with the issues or are concerned about others struggling with them.

The site is also home to the five animations covering loneliness and isolation, perfectionism, competitiveness, independence and issues surrounding social media.

The most visited resources on the site have been those dedicated to loneliness and perfectionism, attracting 20,000 visits, which represents 53% of the website’s total traffic to date.

Social media content mentioning loneliness and perfectionism were also the best performing posts from the entire campaign resulting in 11% more engagements than the other issues.

three men sitting on stair

Paul Crawford, professor of health humanities at the Institute of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham, said: ‘It is sobering to see that loneliness and perfectionism are the most prominent issues affecting so many young people’s mental health.

‘We know that the impact of lockdown has been profound on our young people.

‘As well as offering a much needed mental health resource for young people, this campaign forms part of a wider research project that will evaluate how effective these creative platforms are as a way of reaching young people who need it, and ensuring help and guidance is easily accessible.

‘Preliminary findings from our research shows that the films improve young people’s knowledge and attitudes towards mental health, their willingness to seek help, and confidence to help their peers.’

The experience of young people’s mental health expert Dr Dominique Thompson, has indicated that the increasing pressure of our ‘always-on’ culture combined with the challenges of isolation due to the pandemic has created a perfect storm for young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

The project has received widespread support across social media with celebrity and influencers endorsement of the campaign and its approach to tackling the growing mental health concerns affecting young people.

Notably, the campaign has been supported by Stephen Fry, Love Island’s Ovie Soko, Celebs Go Dating host Tom Read Wilson, author Jamie Windust, and TikTok group Byte Squad, among others.

Daniel Binns, animation director at Aardman Animations, said: ‘When we set out to create these short films with our young people co-creators, we wanted to ensure that they were authentic, honest and the kind of characters and stories that would resonate with young people, and I think the response we’ve seen so far has shown just that.

‘With the films being viewed so extensively, the campaign has really demonstrated the importance of telling authentic stories about the challenges young people are facing today.

‘We are really proud to be involved in this important project and the opportunity to help craft authentic and effective resources that are having a genuinely positive impact.’

Photo Credit – Maria Teneva

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