Mental health has a high profile at the moment, thanks particularly to the brave openness of Prince Harry in raising awareness by discussing his own personal mental health issues around the death of his mother.
A recent survey of school teachers has highlighted that more children have mental health issues than two years ago. Poverty, poor housing, unemployment and financial insecurity are important causal factors. More than one in six teachers surveyed believed that at least a quarter of students in their school or college were affected by mental health problems. The teachers and schools are poorly equipped to provide the necessary support and the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are overwhelmed.
In addition to the causes already mentioned, could social media be an additional cause of mental health issues in young people?
Social media has dramatically changed the way we communicate and young people spend their time.
Social media is a powerful positive tool for young people; it provides a platform for their voices to be heard and for them to voice opinions on matters that affect and interest them. It also is very effective in bringing together voices of concern about particular issues, raising awareness and bringing about change. However, it has also transformed our culture into one of over-sharing. Nowadays, many only look at how many pictures they can post or what is the next thing they should post but they don’t look at the effect of social media on mental health. Taking Facebook and Instagram as examples, they allow us to present our own filtered sense of reality, showing only what we want to show.
This can lead to a person critically comparing their life with other people’s and using others’ posts as measures for successes and failures in their own life. The result can be hopeless feelings of low self-esteem and depression. Body dysmorphia is another area affected by social media, body image insecurity can also lead to depression.
Some signs of the negative effect of social media are low self-esteem, feeling low when seeing others images and lifestyle, envy of other people’s lives, using social media as the first and only choice of activity done for enjoyment, not having face to face conversations with friends and family and a feeling of isolation and disconnection.
Recently I read : “The same way second-hand smoke harms the lungs of people around the smoker, smartphones harm the attention and focus of people around the smartphone user. It hijacks our senses. It forces us to pause our conversations and redouble our thoughts unnecessarily. It causes us to lose our train of thought and forget that important point we were constructing in our head. It erodes at our ability to connect and simply be present with one another, destroying intimacy in the process.”
We are probably all guilty of overuse of our devices. Awareness is half the battle. Parents, teachers and friends can look out for the possible signs of mental health deterioration and seek appropriate help.