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Keywords:

  • adolescent mental health;
  • methodology;
  • My World Survey;
  • protective factor;
  • risk factor

Abstract

Background

Internationally, 75% of all mental health problems emerge before the age of 25 years, and adolescence represents a critical period that strongly influences the course of these problems. To date, there is limited research on the mental health of young people aged 12–25 years in Ireland. The My World Survey (MWS) national study provides data on risk and protective factors of mental health among 14 306 young people. The MWS was conducted in two phases: Phase 1 – MWS-Second Level (MWS-SL) with adolescents aged 12–19 years, and Phase 2 – MWS-Post Second Level among young adults aged 17–25 years.

Aim

This article provides a comprehensive overview of the development of the MWS-SL study. Another aim is to identify key learning points when conducting research in the second-level school system.

Methods

The MWS-SL study was conducted with 6085 adolescents aged 12–19 years in 72 second-level schools. The MWS consists of standardized reliable and valid measures that have been used internationally to assess a range of risk and protective factors associated with adolescent mental health.

Results

Schools recruited for the MWS-SL study represented quite well the national distribution of second-level schools based on gender composition, disadvantaged/non-disadvantaged status and geographic location.

Conclusions

Key learning points when collecting survey data in schools include pilot testing of survey instruments; building relationships with key stakeholders to ensure buy-in for the study from schools; establishing rigorous data collection and processing protocols; and recognizing the value of online surveys.