Today’s young adults are facing a world very different from the one most of us grew up in. Though social media has been around for years, we are just beginning to understand the negative impacts. Couple these impacts with the unique physical, social, and emotional impacts from the global pandemic that we are still navigating, and the mental health consequences for our teens have become dire.
It’s time to recognize the depth and gravity of the sources and triggers and come up with actionable steps to protect children from what the American Academy of Pediatrics has deemed a National Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
Let’s Talk Social Media
Social media can be a place for connection and a way to decompress and relax, but for teens and adults alike, it can also be a place that puts a strain on our mental health. The use of deceptive facial filters and the likelihood of people to show only the highlights, not the complex and 3-dimensional experiences of day-to-day life, leave many adults and teens alike playing the comparison game. In this game, the cards are stacked unfairly in the favor of carefully curated posts.
Since teens are still developing the rational and emotional center of their brains, it can be nearly impossible for them to be able to interpret images related to body image, violence, sexuality, and health without increasing levels of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and sleep disruption.
On the extreme side, though adults have taken mitigating actions in recent years, cyberbullying also remains a very serious part of the problem with social media. The more time spent online, the higher the likelihood that kids and teens will encounter cyberbullying increasing anxiety, depression and risk of suicide.
Children and teens have faced two years of loss during the pandemic. Beyond the reality of losing loved ones to the coronavirus, they have also had increased anxiety and depression due to Covid-19 upending their:
- Routines and structures
- School attendance and performance
- Access to sports and extracurricular activities
- Feeling of safety and stability
- Access to resources
- Connections outside of their households
- Relationships within their households
As we turn the page and look ahead to what’s next, there are solutions to helping our teens battle this mental health disruption.
What Are the Next Steps To Help Our Teens?
1| Increase connection and communication. These two factors have a huge impact on mental health and are left extremely vulnerable by both social media overuse and the effects of the pandemic. Parents can increase the opportunities to connect by integrating activities you both enjoy, having tech-disconnected family time, and addressing the issues head-on without judgment or stigma. Letting teens know that they are not alone and have people who care about them and see their value in everyday life is a great start to combatting anxiety and depression.
2| Don’t face it alone. There are school, faith-based, and community resources available to help you navigate the next steps. Consider bringing in community leaders to connect with and speak with your teen, and reach out to your child’s pediatrician to learn what your options are going forward.
3| Learn about counseling and psychiatric resources. Sometimes, cases of anxiety and depression can be short-lived when treated early. Other times, they are a chronic issue that requires dedicated care. Every person has different needs, and what may work for one individual, may not be appropriate for the next. It’s important to research the kind of care that is right for your family. Your teen may benefit from a variety of scientifically-backed treatment options in tandem with the resources and solutions mentioned above.
If you are looking for a holistic method to find the right balance of psychotherapy, medical assessment, and treatment, reach out to our team of doctors and therapists at Hudson Psychiatric Associates to learn more.