What is modern mental health and how does it affect our families? It means how mental health illnesses affect us in today’s world. For several reasons, many people today are more anxious, busy, stressed, more connected (thanks to technology) but yet lonelier. They have higher incidences of depression, suicide rates or thoughts of suicide, access to negative news and more.
The reason we must talk about it is because it affects everyone in the family. The increase in materialism and in measuring yourself against social media leads to more people being dissatisfied with themselves. In addition, stories of attacks being streamed online seem to blur the lines between reality and fiction.
Role of Social Media
According to The World Happiness Report, since 2012 the amount of time young people in the US spend on social media has increased significantly, with 17 to18-year-olds spending over six hours a day on three activities- the Internet, social media, and texting. The time spent sleeping and on face-to- face social interactions have decreased and happiness has decreased as well. The report highlighted that girls who spend five or more hours a day on social media are three times more likely to be depressed than non-users. Also, heavy Internet users are twice as likely to be unhappy.
The rise in the use of social media has a huge role to play when it comes to modern mental health. The sheer access to information including negative and inappropriate news affects everyone. Children are able to access all sorts of materials these days. They are exposed to cyber-bullying, self-harming videos and other vices that the virtual world is waiting to offer. Families need to be intentional when it comes to spending quality time together.
The technological and social media advances of the past decade have bred the “constant checker.” A constant checker is a person who constantly, almost obsessively, checks their emails, texts, and social media accounts. Stress levels among constant checkers are considerably higher than they are among people who do not engage with technology and social media as frequently.
These include the fear of missing out among others. It is affecting relationships, as more constant checkers feel disconnected from their family even if they are in the same room. This is because they are always on social media; they retreat into the virtual world more than they engage with their physical.
No, you do not have to quit social media altogether, but simply changing your behaviour on social networking sites and taking an occasional break may help. This is where parents play a big role; they can intentionally set up guidelines to encourage more real connection in person.
Yale researchers have come up with wars to help nervous youngsters. Childhood and adolescent anxiety has reached epidemic proportions. One of the suggestions for parents with anxious children according to the Yale Child Study Center program, SPACE (Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions), is to teach grown-ups to reduce the accommodations the adults make for their children’s symptoms. These include allowing an anxious child to stay home from school, sleeping nightly with a frightened child, responding to numerous calls or texts everyday from a nervous teen.
There are many reasons why children today are increasingly more anxious. Some of these include more pressure and demand to succeed in an ever-changing and highly competitive world. Parenting styles have raised more children and youth today who are more entitled and less resilient; and an increase in access to the online world, which results in an exponential increase in screen time. All these have an impact on modern mental health.
Parents with Mental Illness
The fact that a parent has mental illness alone is not sufficient to cause problems for the child and family. Rather, it is how the mental health condition affects the parent’s behaviour that may cause risk to a child. Mental health conditions are not contagious, but research shows that some mental health conditions may have a genetic link.
Resilient children understand that they are not responsible for their parent’s difficulties, and are able to move forward in the face of life’s challenges. Many parents are buckling under the many demands that they face and this has led to an increase in mental health illnesses. Parents are not always able to get treatment and this certainly affects their families. Busy parents need more support system in a world where people seem to be busier with less time for meaningful relationships.
Misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental ill- health is still widespread. It prevents people from seeking mental healthcare. This stigma can lead to abuse, rejection, isolation and exclude people from healthcare or support. According to the WHO, shortages of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists and social workers are among the main barriers to providing treatment and care in low- and middle-income countries. If people get treated for mental health illnesses early they will be able to get the support they need to function at full capacity. Our culture of not speaking out adds to the stress of someone who has challenges.
Isolation and Modern Mental Health
A report by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (Pitt) in Pennsylvania suggests that the more time that adults aged 19 to 32 spend using social media, the more likely they are to be socially isolated.
According to Brian A. Primack, Ph.D., the director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health. “This is an important issue to study because mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults. We are inherently social creatures, but modern life tends to compartmentalise us instead of bringing us together.”
Be Less Distracted
We are over-busy! There is too much going on. This affects children and the family, everyone is multitasking and the truth is we are not wired to multi-task, it does not encourage concentration and stresses us out more than we think. On a given workday you might be checking messages via WhatsApp, Instagram DM, email, text, slack, Facebook messenger. Half the time you cannot recall what platform you saw the message. This leads to overstimulation and a feeling of never being done with daily demands. It is important to learn ways to do less and be less distracted?
Some tips to help include:
. Do not check your social media or email until after your three hours of deep work.
. Your morning time should be spent on output, not input.
. Studies have found that regular exercise can slow brain aging by as much as 10 years. In addition, people who regularly exercise are more productive at work.
. This also affects our parenting; distracted parents are more aloof and miss critical bonding moments with their children. Children should be taught the benefits of being less distracted; if they are doing homework they should have their phones turned off. If they are watching television, they should not also play a video game. Let us learn to be mindful.
Many studies have observed that more time spent on social media is associated with an increased risk of loneliness and depression. Which comes first? Are unhappy people using social media, or does social media use affect happiness?
Overall there are many changes that have occurred in the digital age, an increase in the use of technology and social media definitely has changed the way people interact.
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