‘Emoji jukebox’ launched to help young people talk about how they are feeling

An ’emoji jukebox’ has been launched to encourage young people in Scotland to open up about how they are feeling.

Described as a ‘world’s first’, the interactive website is designed as a platform for young people to feed back a range of expressive faces – following which a music playlist is generated to suit their mood.

The platform was launched by See Me, the national programme to end mental health discrimination, after new research showed only a quarter of young people would tell someone if they were struggling to cope.

The orgnanisation surveyed 1,455 young people aged 12-26 on mental health in June. They found that only 26% of young people would tell someone if they were finding it difficult to cope, compared to 67% who would tell someone if they were feeling physically unwell.

62% also said they think that people are treated unfairly if they say they have a mental health condition, and only 31% would tell someone if they had a diagnosis.

However 72% said they would be able to talk to someone if they thought that person was struggling with their mental health.

To help young people to speak about how they are feeling FeelsFM.co.uk was launched this week at the Barrowlands in Glasgow, where See Me were joined by Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey, as well as Scottish bands Losing Ground and The Violet Kind.

The online emoji powered jukebox, created as part of the Year of Young People, is designed to help young people express their feelings, use music as a positive coping strategy, and find new ways to talk about mental health stigma.

Shah Gill struggled with his mental health when he was growing up, but didn’t find it easy to talk to people.

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The 21 year old, from Paisley, said: “When I was in school I was bullied. Often I would struggle with eating habits. I had a lot of insecurities and self-doubt. It wasn’t acknowledged by teachers.

“It took me a long time to figure out it was an eating disorder. It’s hard to explain to others what you’re going through when you don’t understand yourself. I think people saw I was struggling, but didn’t know how to handle it.

“I struggled to explain to one teacher what I was going through. When I did eventually tell her, she was very dismissive and said I needed to focus on my education. But it is much harder to focus when you are struggling mentally and not getting help.”

Shah eventually found he could speak to his mum, and got help with both his eating, and his mental health from a dietician. He also used music as a coping mechanism when he was feeling down.

He added: “I listen to certain types of music when I feel a certain way. If I’m upset I listen to something emotional or powerful and I’ll listen to lighter music which can help me to stop worrying about things.

“Listening to music that relates to how you’re feeling is really therapeutic and can help you to understand things on a different level. Songs can reduce you to tears, which can sound upsetting, but it’s a good way of coping.”

Joe Rattray, bass player from rockers Admiral Fallow, who are backing the campaign, said: “It’s vital that young people feel enabled and empowered enough to speak about how they are feeling.

“It can be difficult, because when you open up you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position. We still tend to see vulnerability as a negative or weak place. It absolutely isn’t. Speaking about your mental health is a bold step and one that will help you feel better prepared for what life throws at you.

“Luckily for me I have a group of friends around me that I feel comfortable talking to. It isn’t easy to do, and you often feel that your problems might seem trivial or unimportant but we all deserve to feel happy and loved.”

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said: “We want to normalise mental health issues, so young people can express how they are feeling without worrying about being judged or dismissed.

“The emoji jukebox is about tapping in to the power of music. Be it happy or sad songs, many people find that music is an important way of helping them cope and express how they are feeling.

“It’s okay not to feel okay. What’s important is that people feel they can seek the help they need and deserve.”

Calum Irving, See Me director said: “Everyone has feelings, everyone has mental health, and most people listen to music. We want to bring this together, so young people can express how they are feeling without worrying about stigma, and get songs to help if they’re struggling.”

FeelsFM was created by See Me with Studio Something, for the Year of Young People. The campaign is backed by £74,000 from the Scottish Government.