Getting Help Online

How Young People Find, Evaluate, and Use Mental Health Apps, Online Therapy, and Behavioral Health Information

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2024 National Survey of Teens and Young Adults Reveals Online Resources, Therapy, and Apps are Important sources of mental Health Support for Young People

Findings show that young people from communities of color, the LGBTQ+ community, or those who already have symptoms of moderate to severe depression are especially reliant on online tools

Online resources offer a vital lifeline, especially as many young people struggle to find in-person care, support, and practical information for their challenges with behavioral health (i.e., mental health, substance use, and wellness). The availability of these digital resources provides crucial support for those seeking assistance and practical information.

This report, the fourth in a series from Hopelab and Common Sense Media, looks at how teens and young people (ages 14–22) are embracing online mental health tools — from social media to therapy and mental health apps — as resources for seeking support and managing their own mental health and well-being. Conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, the study was uniquely co-created with young people themselves, who not only provided direction and input regarding survey content but also worked with the research team to prioritize and interpret results through focus groups and individual interviews.

Young people regularly look up mental health information online, take advantage of online therapy options, and use mental health support apps and platforms. Social media is also an important place for young people to both seek out and come across mental health information. Survey data revealed many young people use this information as a jumping-off point for them to do further research or explore their behavioral health issues. Overall, young people are often careful to use trusted sources to vet or further investigate the information they find on social media.

Data also shows that young people from communities of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and those experiencing moderate to severe depression are particularly reliant on digital self-help tools. The report underscores the importance of making mental health resources as high-quality and easily accessible as possible, ensuring young people can receive the support they need.

Research key findings

  • Key Finding 1

    While social media and the web are important sources of mental health information, most young people report that they take extra steps to verify what they find.

  • Key Finding 2

    Online therapy has increased access to mental health support and is generally seen as helpful by those who seek it.

  • Key Finding 3

    More than half of young people have used an app to support their mental health or well-being. For Latinx and Black young people, limitations related to in-person therapy — such as accessibility, affordability, and cultural stigma — may contribute to higher rates of app usage.

  • Key Finding 4

    More than half of young people who have sought online therapy in the past year did so through a private practice or medical setting; three in 10 young people have used an online therapy platform through a telehealth company.

  • Key Finding 5

    LGBTQ+ youth and young people with depressive symptoms are more likely to have searched online for behavioral health information, to have used online therapy, and to have used apps to support their mental health or well-being.

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