Dale Todd, a positive psychology practitioner based in Glasgow and CommonSpace reader, gives his take on CommonSpace’s special week of coverage on the mental heallth crisis. You can give yours by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I AGREE that social media is having a pernicious effect on mental health, particularly young people. I recently read a peer reviewed study by Penn University which was the first of its kind to link increased social media use with a decline in wellbeing.
Furthermore, it strikes me that the atomisation of our society is inhibiting a collective desire for social change. I can’t quite understand why more folk are not more engaged democratically given we have a deeply unpopular UK Government.
That being said I do think social media, used appropriately, can create and foster relationships that otherwise would not have been possible. The key, from a psychological perspective, is that it shouldn’t replace actual face to face engagement. That is the danger.
Furthermore it is correct to reference neoliberal economics and the increase in precarious employment as factors in the mental health crisis. Earning a regular income which covers basic necessities such as shelter, food and clothing is an essential psychological need. When this is not meet it can contribute to chronic stress.
I’d chuck in another couple of reasons why people are suffering from poor mental health. The media, whose business models are increasingly built around monetising fear and anger. And also the cult of perfectionism – modern society demands that it is within our grasp to be perfectly sane, and to be successful and accomplished in everything that we do. If we do not meet these standards then this can have a detrimental impact on our wellbeing. It’s okay to feel a bit rubbish sometimes, and that’s just part of being human.
In terms of positive developments in the area of mental health. I see substantive efforts by the Scottish Government to tackle the problem. In addition I think it’s great that more folk are talking about mental health and it’s now becoming a topic that people can relate to.
In the field of positive psychology there are great strides being made in identifying what makes human beings flourish, to help identify meaning and to lead healthier lives. This includes developing interventions for enhancing our psychological wellbeing.
In the field of medicine there are great general health advocates, Dr Rangan Chatterjee and Dr Punam Krishan in particular who make the case that what we put into our bodies, how we sleep, what exercise we take and how connected we are to one another, can have a fundamental impact on our mental health and wellbeing.
People are now able to make far more informed choices about their physical and mental health.
If you are going through mental health issues of your own and want to talk to someone, Mind offers this guide to helplines and mental health listening services.
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