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Young woman looking at her phone whilst sitting on a sofa in the dark.

Phrases like ‘a bit OCD’ are prevalent in our society, does this come from a place of ignorance or is it just a reflection of how we’ve heard issues referred to in the media?

Experts from the University of Birmingham will be unpicking media representations of mental health as part of this year’s Festival of Social Science, taking place from 21st October – 17th November 2023.

This year’s festival focuses on ‘lifelong wellbeing’, exploring mental and physical health at all ages, as well as celebrating the 75th anniversary of the NHS.

The University of Birmingham is hosting an ambitious programme of free interactive events supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The festival’s flagship event ‘“A Bit OCD” – How we talk about youth mental health and neurodivergence’ will explore how the media represents young people and those with mental health conditions. Are these conditions over-simplified in the media? Are they glamourised to some extent, particularly on social media? Through a series of panel discussions, academics from the University of Birmingham, the University of Warwick, students and mental health activists will consider the impact of media representations on public perception.

This generation of young people have grown up in the age of social media, surrounded by technology that allows them instant and constant access to the internet. With this in mind, it’s vital we look at how young people and those with mental health conditions are depicted in the media and the impact this can have.

Associate Professor Sophie King-Hill, University of Birmingham

Associate Professor Sophie King-Hill who is leading the event said: “This generation of young people have grown up in the age of social media, surrounded by technology that allows them instant and constant access to the internet. With this in mind, it’s vital we look at how young people and those with mental health conditions are depicted in the media and the impact this can have. What’s more, we need to hear directly from young people. The youth mental health sector is notoriously underfunded and is buckling under the waiting lists. Despite this crisis, youth mental health is still rarely talked about in wider society and continues to hold a great deal of stigma, surrounded by shame and taboos. The first step in recognising this and supporting youth mental health positively is to listen and bring these conversations to the foreground. Youth voice plays a vital role in these discussions and talking about these topics can help form a more realistic understanding of mental health, as well as contribute to lifelong wellbeing.”

Other events running as part of the University of Birmingham’s diverse programme include discussions around the importance of forging connections, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien; caregiving and care receiving; the power of community and wellbeing in crime prevention; autism in different cultures; and strengthening youth voice on mental health policy. There are also opportunities to create a fundraising poster for the future NHS, learn about the impact of wood carving on wellbeing, and explore nature through eco-art activities.

The festival is part of the nationwide ESRC Festival of Social Science which highlights how pioneering social, economic and political research impacts everyday life.