Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Online Mental Health Animations for Young People. Qualitative Empirical Thematic Analysis and Knowledge Transfer.pdf (407.59 kB)

Online mental health animations for young people: qualitative empirical thematic analysis and knowledge transfer

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-01-31, 10:02 authored by Helen CoughlanHelen Coughlan, David Quin, Kevin O'Brien, Colm Healy, Jack Deacon, Naoise Kavanagh, Niamh HumphriesNiamh Humphries, Mary ClarkeMary Clarke, Mary CannonMary Cannon

Background: Mental ill-health is one of the most significant health and social issues affecting young people globally. To address the mental health crisis, a number of cross-sectoral research and action priorities have been identified. These include improving mental health literacy, translating research findings into accessible public health outputs, and the use of digital technologies. There are, however, few examples of public health-oriented knowledge transfer activities involving collaborations between researchers, the Arts, and online platforms in the field of youth mental health.

Objective: The primary aim of this project was to translate qualitative research findings into a series of online public mental health animations targeting young people between the ages of 16 and 25 years. A further aim was to track online social media engagement and viewing data for the animations for a period of 12 months.

Methods: Qualitative data were collected from a sample of 17 youth in Ireland, aged 18-21 years, as part of the longitudinal population-based Adolescent Brain Development study. Interviews explored the life histories and the emotional and mental health of participants. The narrative analysis revealed 5 thematic findings relating to young people's emotional and mental health. Through a collaboration between research, the Arts, and the online sector, the empirical thematic findings were translated into 5 public health animations. The animations were hosted and promoted on 3 social media platforms of the Irish youth health website called SpunOut. Viewing data, collected over a 12-month period, were analyzed to determine the reach of the animations.

Results: Narrative thematic analysis identified anxiety, depression, feeling different, loneliness, and being bullied as common experiences for young people. These thematic findings formed the basis of the animations. During the 12 months following the launch of the animations, they were viewed 15,848 times. A majority of views occurred during the period of the social media ad campaign at a cost of €0.035 (approximately US $0.042) per view. Animations on feeling different and being bullied accounted for the majority of views.

Conclusions: This project demonstrates that online animations provide an accessible means of translating empirical research findings into meaningful public health outputs. They offer a cost-effective way to provide targeted online information about mental health, coping, and help-seeking to young people. Cross-sectoral collaboration is required to leverage the knowledge and expertise required to maximize the quality and potential reach of any knowledge transfer activities. A high level of engagement is possible by targeting non-help-seeking young people on their native social media platforms. Paid promotion is, therefore, an important consideration when budgeting for online knowledge translation and dissemination activities in health research.


Health Research Board (KEDS-2017-014)

Health Research Board (HPF-2015-974)

Health Research Board (EIA-2017-022)

Health Research Board (HRA-2015)

European Research Council (724809)

Irish Research Council (COALESCE/2019/61)



The original article is available at

Published Citation

Coughlan H. Online mental health animations for young people: qualitative empirical thematic analysis and knowledge transfer. J Med Internet Res. 2021;23(2):e21338

Publication Date

9 February 2021

PubMed ID



  • Beaumont Hospital
  • Health Psychology
  • Psychiatry

Research Area

  • Population Health and Health Services
  • Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders


JMIR Publications Inc.


  • Published Version (Version of Record)