Why Social Media Is A Double-Edged Sword When It Comes To Mental Health
The Debrief: With anxiety and depression rates at an all-time high within young women, is social media the solution as much as it is the problem?
We’ve been warned for the past few years that social media use and online devices can lead to poor mental health, however, The Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) has developed an app that they hope will lead to improvements in mental health among young women.
Rates of anxiety and depression are quickly rising among younger women, with new data from the NHS, obtained by The Guardian, revealing a 68% spike in the number of girls under 17 who were admitted to hospital due to self-harming. Experts have put these mental health issues down to the increased use of social media, with Instagram being dubbed as ‘the most dangerous platform’ for mental health.
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The new app, which is being trialled at a number of private schools, allows girls to track their mood and record their emotions. Users choose an option in the morning and evening that logs whether they’re in a good or bad mood. The app was developed by psychologists so that younger women can make sense of their emotions and try to put a stop to 'contagious depression'. Behaviours from one person can rub off onto another, meaning negative behaviours that are linked to depression and anxiety are technically transferable. The information on GDST's new app can be accessed by teachers, meaning they can assess when users are experiencing similar moods or behaviours and therefore address the issue.
So instead of digital detoxing, is it simply a case of letting your device know how you’re feeling? Although understanding your own emotions is a place to start, one app alone cannot combat the endless pressures created by social media and it seems the relevant support isn’t in place to help either. Stats from a recent YouGov poll showed that only 1 in 10 primary teachers felt they had the necessary training to support a young person suffering from mental health issues.
The particularly worrying fact is that an increasingly large number of young women are facing immense pressure because of what they’re seeing or reading online. We're bombarded with ridiculous, impossible to meet standards of how we should look, dress and live. With 24/7 platforms, we're constantly comparing, judging and therefore suffering. Social media is creating a culture that measures your worth with favourites and likes, which is possibly why younger women never feel completely comfortable in their own skin.
That said, social media has its strengths. We're currently seeing an advance in apps available to help with symptoms of mental health issues, much like the project developed by GDST. You can download programmes that help with mindfulness, teach more about mental health or offer different support platforms. It also gives those in the spotlight a platform to discuss their own experiences. Just last week, Dame Kelly Holmes spoke about how she frequently self-harmed at low points during her career, and by addressing her own struggles with depression, helped encourage other young people to seek help.
The pitfalls of social media are effectively endless, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use it for positive engagement. Using apps or social platforms to engage and educate young women about their emotions could help overcome this dangerous rise in mental health issues, and save future generations from suffering the same.
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