Magazine article The Nation's Health

New York City Health Workers Using MySpace to Reach Teens

Magazine article The Nation's Health

New York City Health Workers Using MySpace to Reach Teens

Article excerpt

New York City teenagers can learn to cope with mental health issues in a place they are familiar with, where no one is watching or judging them, where there are plenty of kids just like them and where they can interact with real health professionals--MySpace.

Launched in July 2008, NYC Teen Mindspace is a project of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which is taking advantage of the enormous popularity of the social networking site MySpace to reach out to teens with what could be life-saving mental health information. According to Myla Harrison, MD, the assistant commissioner in the department's Office of Child and Adolescent Services, using social networking is "a very promising strategy" to relay important public health messages.

"The primary intention (of the site) was to give information aimed at education," Denise Arieli, MSW, with the health department's Office of Child and Adolescent Services, told The Nation's Health.

With nearly 750 "friends," the Mindspace site, which is hosted on MySpace, offers fact sheets on health topics ranging from depression to suicide to stress. The page also includes stories of various fictional characters suffering from mental health issues. NYC Teen Mindspace also offers quizzes, polls and "quick facts," as well as a confidential number and e-mail address that allows users to communicate directly with health workers.

"By reaching out to young people where they socialize in a style they can relate to, we make it easier for them to talk and seek help," said David Rosin, MD, deputy commissioner for mental hygiene for the New York City health department, at a 2008 news conference launching the site.

Launched as an alternative to poster campaigns on the same topic, Harrison noted that "with posters you don't know who is reading them or what they are taking away from them, and there is no way to evaluate their effectiveness. …

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