Janne Lund at the University of Agder wrote a blog post about how talking about young people and mental health may not serve the intended purpose. Her post was the most read on forskning.no in 2020.
“Exciting”, the author says, “really exciting”.
Janne Lund is in her home office writing her dissertation.
She is a research fellow at the Department of Psychosocial Health at the University of Agder (UiA). The PhD student does research on mental health issues in young girls.
In January 2020 she published the blog post that was most read on forskning.no last year. The post was titled “No, we don’t have to talk about it” (in Norwegian).
And then much talk followed.
Mental health professionals wrote opinion pieces in the papers. Journalists from the national broadcaster NRK, regional and national newspapers all wanted interviews.
Should we not talk about mental health issues among young girls, they asked.
Even yesterday a journalist called to ask whether Janne Lund has anything new to say.
“Have we gone too far in making the individual responsible for finding the solutions to their problems?” she asked in her blog post, which was also published as an opinion piece in Aftenposten.
“It is quite ironic that a text expressing doubt about the value of talking about young people’s mental health should find so many readers and elicit so much discussion”, Lund says.
“I didn’t have a set agenda before starting to write. I just tried to put my feelings, frustration and unease about what I was contributing to into words. My research subject was young people and mental health, but I noticed after a while that I didn’t enjoy talking about the subject. I felt like I couldn’t talk about it without pathologising the individual”, she says.
She thinks it is important for researchers to engage in public discourse and contribute with their expertise.
The discussions following the publication of the piece have contributed to more awareness around young people and mental health.
My main concern in the article was to direct the attention away from the individual young person and direct it toward society. We have to talk about how society is structured and not just view mental health as an individual issue. Health so
lutions must be lifted from the individual level to the societal level where they belong”, she says.
She has received email and letters from colleagues and other readers after publishing her post. Some want to add more nuance to her perspectives, and others completely agree. Most of them wanted to thank her for writing what she did.
“The goal is not to win a debate but to contribute with thoughts that may move the conversation onwards and change things for the better”, she says.
“Writing an opinion piece takes time, and it takes time to prepare for interviews. But it also sharpens my thinking about my own work. While writing I ask myself questions that open up new perspectives for me to consider while working on my dissertation”, she says.
She also says that her writing flows more naturally when writing an opinion piece or a blog post.
“It is easier to bring in your own thoughts and not just correctly stated research findings”, she says.
She recommends that her colleagues share their thoughts in public. In her opinion, it is not necessary to have a new research project or new findings to present in order to write an opinion piece.
“We can contribute with perspectives and knowledge from our own field of expertise that will give readers food for further thought”, she says.
This is her advice to colleagues who want to write blog posts or opinion pieces:
“Write about the things you have in mind, don’t present it like you have the solution. Write before you have all the answers. And avoid being pulled into the comments section. Prepare for interviews with journalists, and always request to check your quotes”, Lund says.