It is an open fact across the globe that social media has taken control of our lives.
There are indeed positive features about the advent of social media like online learning, business but there are down sights to it which affects mental health. A lot of studies have found out that high social media use often result in poor mental health which may include the following;
LOW SELF ESTEEM
Social media use has resulted in some of the users having doubt about their capabilities when they see others’ profiles on social media. This puts unnecessary burden on individuals which may result in some of them going to shops solely for fitting on designer clothes then uploading photos on social media to be at par with those they envy. This has been affirmed by a 2015 study which found out that “regularly using facebook could lead to symptoms of depression if the user envies others.”
POOR INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
There are growing incidents of family members not interacting during gatherings as they are busy in social media sites. This makes it difficult to communicate and share family moments. Suicide cases and depression have been an end result because channels where one can share their feelings have been dented.
DISTRACTIBLE ATTENTION SPAN
Excessive involvement in social media platforms has resulted in some individuals being inattentive as they are solely focused on social media sites. This promotes recklessness and poor judgement to the extent of some people causing car accidents!
With social media use there is a fair share of disturbance in sleep patterns most commonly insomnia. Some users are so engrossed in use that they barely have time to sleep. The problem is further compounded by the fact that our mobile service providers have reduced internet rates during the night.
It’s time we pay particular attention to the use of social media and try to forge tangible personal relationships with each other. We need to use social media cautiously and have proper sleeping time of at least 8 hours. Companies should enact social media policies to counter this growing epidemic!
POSITIVE INFLUENCE OF CULTURE ON MENTAL HEALTH
An avid reader of the column engaged me recently and implored that I unravel how culture has an influence on mental health and in this segment will try usher a response.
As asserted by Satcher (2001), cultural dynamics do play a significant role in influencing perceptions, beliefs and practices of community members towards mental illness and treatment. Whilst there is a universal conformity to what entails mental illness, the illness is defined by what a certain culture perceives as abnormal pertaining to their values. Cultural practices can adversely affect mental health.
For example, robing a widow in black for a year is a risk factor to mental illnesses like depression as the clothes are a constant reminder of his/her loss coupled with many restrictions imposed on them.
The discussion will focus on those that promote mental health. During bereavement, we often gather at the family of the deceased to convey support with close family members even moving in to stay for a few days. This is indeed a buffer to development of mental illness as family support is critical in dealing with our everyday challenges. This gesture prevents social isolation which is a risk factor.
Poverty has previously been cited as one of the social determinants of mental health. Our culture has a practice known as “mafisa” which promotes helping the underprivileged. This is a welcome practice as it serves as a protective factor hence mental illness development being annihilated.
Batswana by tradition often encourage dialogue whenever an issue arises. “Molemo wa kgang ke go buiwa”, so goes an old Tswana adage. This augurs well for positive mental as individuals are able to catharsise feelings and there is conflict resolution.
Elderly people are often encouraged by our customs to stay with the eldest daughter. This prevents social isolation brought by “empty nest syndrome” and avail resources for quality health outcome. Studies have shown that when the elderly do not stay alone, depressive symptoms are markedly reduced.
These few cultural practices outlined above indeed shows that we do not need rocket science to promote mental health! The strategies our in our midst.
THERE IS NEED FOR A ROBUST SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMME
The 2018 PSLE, JCE results have been released and we are still waiting for those of BGCSE. In most of the deliberations post the results, mental health was never brought up as a factor of influence.
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that mental health problems affect academic performance. According to a 2016 research paper by Dr Gerd Schulte-Kone, “about 10-20% of children have a mental health problem of some type.” Children and adolescents are often the age group that mainly attends school and incur these myriad of mental health challenges.
The challenges include learning disorders, conduct disorders, depression, ADHD, substance use problems, bullying which in one way or another affect academic performance of students. With the advent of mental health problems, students are bound to fail, become truant, skip classes and even drop from school. There has been instances of students experiencing anxiety disorders during examination time culminating in them in ultimately failing.
The various mental health problems highlighted above could have specific tailor made strategies to address them but there is need for a robust school mental health programme. Schools should not wait for a crisis to bring in the expertise of mental health professionals but rather strive for prevention as “prevention is better than cure.” Other strategies could entail the following;
Having a fully-fledged mental health department within the school set up
Periodic mental health screening of students
Rigorous mental health awareness training for all teachers to enable them to identify students with challenges
Having strategies to curb bullying
Integrating mental health education into the curriculum to nurture kids at a young age
Teachers themselves do experience emotional stressors in relation to the nature of their job. Teachers endure verbal abuse and is some quarters physical violence from students which may facilitate development of emotional and psychological problems. It is nigh we have mental health programmes within the school set up that also includes teachers.
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