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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Young people's debate 2017

On the day The Times newspaper reported on its front page that Facebook admits “social media is bad for your mental health”, we held our annual debate for young people to a combined audience of 600 school pupils. This popular annual event, always hugely oversubscribed, is an educational initiative of the college’s Public Engagement Committee.

Two teams debated the motion “This house believes that social media is bad for your mental health”. Dr Peter Haddad and Dr Beth Masterson proposed the motion, and Dr Abigail Swerdlow and Dr Priya Raj opposed it. Combining humour, statistical research and friendly rivalry, the two teams put forward their arguments, including noting the increasing rates of young people’s mental health illness, cyberbullying and isolation, but also the positives of social media; the support many find online and maintaining long distance friendships.

Chaired by Dr Jim Bolton and Dr Gil Myers, pre- and post-debate votes were counted and a live twitter feed was co-ordinated and widely participated in by those attending, despite the technological issues noted by the Times the following day! The motion was defeated at both debates, but the audience questions, comments and discussion was both animated and insightful.

Many students were keen to know more about training in psychiatry, and this annual event helps both destigmatise mental health illness and inspire psychiatry as a career.

So, is social media bed for your mental health or part of supporting people with mental health problems? Can it be both? Watch and find out.


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