Is TikTok Changing the Way Young People Learn about Mental Health and Connect to Health Services During the COVID‑19 Pandemic?
Where does the health system begin and end for young people living in Canada? Early in the COVID‑19 pandemic, there was a surge in TikTok users as young people sought to cope with boredom during lockdowns (total monthly users n=1.1 billion, 7/10 teens in Canada report using TikTok). Besides viral dance videos, TikTok’s short-form video platform and less visible algorithms gives young people a place to learn about mental health, connect to peers struggling with similar challenges, and de-stigmatize seeking care. TikTok creates a place to effectively meet the needs of diverse youth suffering from mental health and substance use challenges during the pandemic, including populations historically excluded and underserved. The next step is understanding how to leverage TikTok to effectively develop and implement mental health interventions and services to connect young people to care, improve outcomes, and optimize patient experiences. From the perspective of youth living in Canada, the objectives of this study are to (1) assess the quality of mental health information and advice on TikTok during the COVID‑19 pandemic, (2) elevate the voices of diverse young people to understand how Canadian youth navigate TikTok during the pandemic to learn about mental health and connect to services. This project will use multiple methods including (1) content analysis of TikTok videos tagged with #mentalhealth, (2) sentiment analysis to determine if content is positive or negative, and (3) qualitative interviews with 30-40 diverse youth from across Canada to understand barriers and facilitators for using TikTok to navigate mental health information and services. The output will be a youth-centred model for how best to communicate to youth about mental health through TikTok and youth friendly and community relevant options for accessing care during and after the pandemic.