Internet ‘double edged sword’ for mental health says Hartlepool council chief

The icons of social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp displayed on a mobile phone.
The icons of social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp displayed on a mobile phone.

Using the internet can have both positive and negative influences on mental health, care bosses have claimed.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s Health and Wellbeing board was given an update on a investigation into mental health services being conducted by the council this year.

It comes after the Council’s Audit and Governance Committee selected the provision of preventative mental health services in the area a topic for investigation for 2018/19.

The council’s interim director of public health Dr Peter Brambleby said the investigation is a positive for the area, and highlighted the impact social media in particular can have on the population.

He said: “It is a double edged sword when it comes to mental health.

“We are all aware of the risk that social media can bring to young people in multiple ways.

“But for older people it can provide some real benefits. They can learn how to use computers and get connected on Skype which means they can get back in contact with relatives from all over the world.

“It can be a fantastic thing for them.”

Council bosses are hoping the investigation into mental health will also feed into a further review of the area by the Health and Wellbeing Board planned for 2020/2021.

A report from statutory scrutiny officer Joan Stevens said the aim of the investigation is to ‘ensure mental health receives the same priority as physical health as a healthwatch priority for 2018/19’.

The investigation will be divided into three areas focusing on children and young people, working ages, and older people’s services.

It comes as part of the Audit and Governance Committee’s responsibility to review and scrutinise matters within the council and with local health providers.

Further updates will be provided to the council on the investigation throughout the year.