World Mental Health Day – Smart Technologies?

Monday this week was World Mental Health Day, and everyone knows this is an issue that is close to my heart. I have struggled with my mental health as a lot of people do and I would say it wasn’t by any stretch as bad as some people suffer but when it was at its worst, it was pretty bad.

Last year I wrote about mental health being the elephant in the room and how people really didn’t talk about mental health but we seem to have come a long way in the last year. The discussion around mental health seems to be a lot more open than it did last year and I have seen lots and lots of discussion around this issue. If you are planning on getting healthier, get health supplements like the best health care supplements!

In the Media

It less than a week since hip-hop star Kid Cudi checked himself into an establishment complaining of severe mental health issues, having previously lashed out at Kanye West and others that were around him at the start of his career, but mental health issues can make you do that, when you feel at your worst and alone, often the thing that seems logical is to get angry and lash out and end up creating an even worse problem, physical health is easy to maintain since there are many ways to keep a physical body like a good diet and a sixpack abs program you can find online, but is more difficult to solve mental problems where they present.

Actor Devon Murray who was in the Harry Potter films has announced that he has been fighting with depression for 10 years now and recently had suicidal thoughts which caused him to take action to begin treatment.

Earlier this year the Purp & Soul boss and DJ Ben Pearce cancelled his upcoming tour dates as he was battling depression that was being made worse by his touring commitments and noted “It can be easy to hide behind your social media or intoxicants and pretend it isn’t happening but that doesn’t help in the long run.”

The Question

With many people, particularly young people, seeming to be coming out to announce mental health conditions I have been beginning to wonder if access is the issue here. The period of being a teenager through to the early 20’s has always been a turbulent time, and maybe in the past it was seen as teenage angst or just “growing up” but times have changed quite significantly.

It’s probably worth mentioning here that when I say access, I mean access to information – in this case, the Internet and more particularly, social media. Now social media is becoming more and more accessible as well due to smart phones, it has left me asking myself – Are smart phones making you emotionally dumb?

Social media and the internet are great modern way of living life and it being so much more convenient, do you know what could be going on with your mind as you consume online content? The best way of staying healthy online it to be aware of potential pitfalls.

First thing in the morning, I wake up and scroll through my social media feeds. I’m greeted by photos of bombings in Syria. Awful things politicians have done and said. Some very passive aggressive posts clearly aimed at other people on social media, a video of a man attacking another man dressed as a clown (clowns are pretty scary!) – I already feel a cross between miserable and angry before I get out of bed. Even during the time of writing this, I am watching a pretty harsh argument develop on Facebook to do with politics – All in a day’s work eh?

I am genuinely beginning to believe that social media for a lot of people is becoming a bit of an ill. And not just to younger people but to people of all ages. Now I’m not saying at this point that I don’t use social media, I use Facebook and twitter as most people do these days. But nowadays, I severely limit my exposure to both as they are just not healthy in my opinion.

We now have a generation of people who have grown up with social media. My generation didn’t. I was into my 20s before things like Facebook emerged, but there are now a generation of people who have grown up very immersed in the internet and social media and in my opinion, we are starting to see problems developing from this, a lot that can be classified as mental health problems but simply aren’t being caught early enough, different from physical health, where people take a lot of care on, and even take supplements as physiotru for a healthy heart and many others.

Depression and anxiety issues seem to be the highest discussed recently. Now I know these two issues personally. They are not fun. My tendencies towards these developed before the days of social media or the internet but only got worse as I got older.

Fakes-Book Life

I think for a lot of people, the fake life side of social media is where ills can come from to start with. In the days before social media, we had friends we knew and grew up with and talked with, not online but in person. That can help no end. Talking on messenger or Whatsapp is good, but it’s not the same as discussing in person. It also helped us develop our inter-personal skills and trust. We felt we had people we could talk to. This is less prevalent now I believe. It is also very easy to seem to appear to be enjoying life more than you actually are on social media. This is when people begin to ask, “why isn’t my life as good as theirs?” or “why are they more successful?” when in truth, they really aren’t! Appearances can be very deceptive. But this can also be the beginning for self-esteem or self-worth issues and that can be a very slippery slope from there!

Bullying/Trolling

We didn’t have screen grabs of conversations and it would be very rare there would be a photo of us that someone could access. In the days before social media, bullying existed, but trolling definitely didn’t.

Bullying for the most part happened to people who knew their bullies. Nowadays, people can literally pick on anyone they want on the internet from behind a keyboard. And it seems to not have the same connection for the trolls, but definitely does for the victims. Bullying used to, for the vast majority of people, stop once they got home. Now, they have 24 hour access to the victim. And please don’t think this is something that only happens to school aged children. Far from it.

Trolls are vile creatures that exist behind their keyboards miles away and get a kick from virtually bullying people and some of the lengths they go to and things they do would suggest they themselves have a very serious mental health condition. From picking on the parents of dead and disabled children to very publicly threatening to rape celebrities or female rights activists they are pretty scummy people. But these people are essentially grown out out the development of technology.

Explicit Content

We have also increased our exposure to sex. And it is getting more graphic and more aggressive. This is something which worries me considerably. 10 years ago, prior to the generation bought up on social media and the internet, there were no news headlines to show that universities were offering consent “lessons” to students. I mean, has it come to the point where we have to educate people who are 18 and up how not to sexually assault or rape people? One of the scariest and saddest things of modern times I’d say.

But I genuinely believe this has been caused by a generation that has had a mental disconnect due to their exposure to sex. Girls are often feel encouraged to dress “sexy” from a younger and younger age and they see this online, they idolize fully grown women such as Kim Kardashian and Amber Rose who frequently “break the internet” by appearing completely naked online. So is this the way we want to teach young people to behave as they grow up? And there is also the fact a lot of people do not realise how photo-shopped these photos are, so there is a huge pressure to appear to be flawless. Society in general starts to load young people, especially girls with the explosive ingredients for potential mental health issues from around the age of 11.

On the male side of the spectrum, we have the “lads” or “bro-culture”. These are a group of young men who have grown up consuming pornography since they were in some cases 11. They are (unbeknownst to them) addicted to it. As the addiction grows, the introduction stuff they consumed doesn’t have the buzz they wanted and through their teenage years the need for harder and harder porn emerges, since now is easy to go online and find sites like 18PlusPics.com that have the best adult pictures online. Also this is why images on social media become more and more graphic as people become desensitized to it. Even though this sounds like a social commentary, this is also a very dangerous mental health condition – Addiction. There is also an element of emotional disconnect here too. The problem being the addict becomes less and less emotionally attached to sex and more and more attached to the gratification feeling. They also lose their emotional link to sex, and sorry lads, but most of you will develop erectile dysfunction too! The end result is a generation of men with little or no respect for women as they have seen them naked on social media and been consuming more and more aggressive porn until all of a sudden they gain access to real life women – still wondering why we need those consent classes?

There will be a generation of men that see nothing whatsoever wrong with Donald Trump’s comments that were recently released – “I’m famous, I can do what I want to women, I’ll grab them by the p***y.” Because scarily enough, that’s how they were inadvertently raised. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just a problem in males, women have become addicted to pornography too, it’s just more prevalent and therefore more reported in males.

It is also important to remember in the earlier days of smart phone and social media, people actually got addicted to checking their smart phones! People user to refer to becoming an “Iphone Widow” suggesting that all outward contact with their partner had stopped now their partner was turning all their attention to their smart phone. I remember it being covered in the media and it causing some very serious arguments, this wasn’t a gratification issue though, this was the introduction of ‘validation’ via likes – the sense of being approved of or of being more popular due to the amount of people that show ‘approval’ in some way. This continues now to a very extreme point on Instagram and the photos get more and more explicit and the cycle continues.

Let’s also not forget that over exposure to online technologies such as smart phones in bed can also lead to people having an inability to relax and switch off and ultimately sleep which again it not a good place to find yourself.

Substance

Substance abuse has also been a long growing factor in mental health issues but for the most part this is less generational. We are seeing more people developing mental health issues from the long term use of MDMA (the active ingredient in ecstasy) and from THC (the active ingredient in cannabis). Now this is more likely to be the fact that the long term use had never really been studied and now we have a generation who grew up taking recreational drugs. The generational part is that is has become seen as the acceptable behavior to younger people and that the drugs have been getting stronger and stronger over the last 10 years. Estimates put THC content up by around 65% stronger and in some pills the MDMA can be 200% stronger than they were. Both of these drugs are still illegal in the UK and I’m not here to tell people not to do drugs, it’s your choice, I’m not writing about ethics, but about mental health. What I’m saying be careful of what you do, how much of you do and where you get it from if you chose to do drugs.

One generational thing that is getting increasingly more popular though and can be easier linked to mental health issues is the consumption of steroids. The pressure to look flawless is affecting both sexes more and more and the increase in gym culture has left more people consuming steroids. Now steroids have been around for years, but often it was only hardcore body builders that were using them. Now, the use of the internet and specialist pages on Facebook are making them more accessible to everyday people who just want to know “ how to get a six pack“. Asides the awful side effects they can have on your body, they can also cause huge mental health issues, the most commonly known is “roid rage.” The body produces so much testosterone that it is impossible to control your temper and violence usually ensues. It has been known to leave people with mental health conditions for years –  my advice here is to avoid at all costs!

The condition behind could well be body dysmorphia. Is a condition where you “mentally” see your body as different to what it actually is. In the past usually this would manifest in women seeing their bodies a much bigger than they were and men much muscularly smaller although these themes seem to be common across both sexes now. The problem with this condition is that no matter how much you train or your body shape changes, you’ll never be happy with it as it doesn’t fix the mental side of the issue, the only way to fix that is to seek help.

A lot of people who develop body dismorphia have ended up there via their exposure to the media and the feeling of what it is ‘acceptable’ to look like, often linked with low self-esteem issues.

Overview

At this point, I’d like to point out that the internet has some great uses and I do not think it is the worst ill on earth or anything close, but certain parts of it are very dangerous if you are not aware of the effects that it may have on you.

So when we look at all the factors that are now in people’s lives that previously weren’t, is there any surprise that people are struggling? The facts say that 1 in 4 people will develop a mental health condition at some point in their lives. And any of the factors above can affect both young and older people; they aren’t exclusive to the young, the factor that affects it in my opinion? Exposure to the internet and social media.

It is important to remember everyone is different and life can affect people in different ways, but if you think someone is struggling, the best thing you can do is talk to them. Maybe not initially about your concerns for them, but just in general, sometimes having someone to talk to is a big help. Not all the factors mentioned above will affect everyone but they are things to be aware of. Sometimes it is very important to limit your exposure, take proper downtime, relax and clear your mind, don’t relax by laying down and scrolling through Facebook. Your body will be resting but I can bet that your mind will be far from it.

Tips For Good Mental Health

Below are the tips I shared last year to help keep good mental health and these are still very much relevant.

Sleep – make sure you get enough sleep. They say if you have less than 6 hours sleep, it reduces your ability for rational thinking to 55%. Be careful not to hibernate though, sleeping lots because you don’t want to acknowledge a problem isn’t going to fix it unless your problem is exhaustion.

Exercise – make sure you take regular exercise and this helps release chemicals in the brain that are good for making you feel happy. Be careful that you don’t switch to living at the gym to ignore your problems though. By spending all your time at the gym, you may lose weight and/or gain muscle and be more healthy but if you issue is for example, body dismorphia, no matter how much your body changes, you may never be happy with it unless you address the mental aspect of it.

Talk – talking about your issues is one way of beginning to resolve them, be it talking to a friend or talking to a doctor about a course of treatment. Be careful that you talk to someone who will take the issue seriously. There is nothing worse than being told to “pull yourself together” or something of that nature. It’s like telling someone with a broken leg to “walk it off.” It only makes things worse.

Diet – much like a car, if you fill yourself with the wrong fuel, you aren’t going to be running well for long. That’s not to say that you should eat all salad and food you don’t enjoy, but a sensible balanced diet should help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Relax – take time for yourself, allow yourself to feel the days where low mood occurs and acknowledge that later on, or tomorrow morning will be better, don’t beat yourself up.

Be Patient – with both yourself and others. Often the underlying cause of the issue may have built up over a number of years and to assume you can acknowledge them and deal with them in the space of one day might be setting yourself up for a fail. Acknowledge that you have started on your journey to feeling better. It’s very important to remain patient if you are supporting someone through their issues. Just make sure they are making positive steps forward over time, if they aren’t and are just talking to you about a problem but not making steps forwards, they could be very much in the next point of negativity.

Negativity – try and stay positive. Don’t surround yourself with a lot of conflict or turbulent people. Also be careful of people who are always negative. It’s not good for them or you. The term ‘misery loves company’ applies here. Be around a very negative person a lot, and you will also likely become very negative. Also be careful of social media. Avoid trolls and groups with extreme opinions that exist to provoke reaction. Don’t be drawn into their negativity and block them if need be. If you have friends that are very negative on Facebook and you are growing tired of it or it is making you negative, un-follow them. It’s not the same of unfriending them and it’s really not offensive as they won’t know. You could also reach out to them via a private message to see if they are okay.

And finally excess – be careful of your excesses whatever they may be. I don’t want to sound like your mum but excessive consumption is not good for you regardless of what your vice is. Be it fatty food, exercise, cigarettes, drink or drugs; please consider your actions before you make the decision.

Try and accept yourself for who you are and the hobbies and interests. No one is perfect or flawless but that can be some of the most fun and socially attractive parts of a person to other people. Go out and meet people and have fun, join a group of people when enjoy the same things as you do and get to know them. Accept that you will have bad days and that is actually okay, as tomorrow will be better and everyone has bad days and please rememeber if you are struggling, please don’t suffer in silence. Seek Help. One of the best things about the internet these days is a quick google will give you access to help pretty much instantly. There are even a few here too.

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