Depressed Teens Share on Social Media: “Mental Illness Feels Like…”
Some parents may be right to worry about the way smartphones have taken over the lives of our teens and adolescents. Is Social Media creating an antisocial generation? A recent study by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda found most American teens and adolescents spend as much as 75 percent of their time awake with their eyes fixed on a small screen. The survey also discovered that when teens disconnected from their electronic devices for just one 24-hour period, they tended to feel extremely lonely and didn’t know how to fill their time. Fortunately, National Depression Awareness Month brings disengaged teens all over the country a unique ironic opportunity: Now, the same technology that isolates so many of our young people can connect and empower them.
Smart Phones, Dumb Conversations
The smartphone generation has the ability to instantly link with nearly any information source and plug into a live feed of what’s happening in their social circles with one click. But as any family member can see, this non-stop barrage of news and trivia can be an awful intrusion in our daily lives. It makes it much more difficult to maintain the kind of focused attention necessary for basic communication. Unsurprisingly, the latest research only proves that cell or smartphones can reduce the quality of a person-to-person conversation, and even lower the amount of empathy that friends feel for each other.
“Mobile phones hold symbolic meaning in advanced technological societies,” a study led by Shalini Misra at Virginia Tech University explains. “In their presence, people have the constant urge to seek out information, check for communication, and direct their thoughts to other people and worlds. Even without active use, the presence of mobile technologies has the potential to divert individuals from face-to-face exchanges, thereby undermining the character and depth of these connections.”
The report goes on to say, “Individuals are more likely to miss subtle cues, facial expressions, and changes in the tone of their conversation partner’s voice, and have less eye contact.” But what if this same form of faceless communication could allow teens and adolescents a chance to talk about their emotional pain?
“Mental Illness feels like…”
To help each other, kids are using electronic devices to open up and share their stories. How does it feel to live with mental illness? That’s the theme for 2016’s Depression Awareness Month. Teens and adolescents are encouraged to share intimate personal details about what life is like for someone with a depressive disorder, in words, images, and video by tagging social media posts with #mentalillnessfeels. Their posts will be displayed at mentalhealthamaerica.net/feelslike. If they wish, they can post anonymously.
During the awareness campaign, Mental Health America’s website offers toolkits, posters, information, useful tips, free screenings, and a helpful forum for personal stories. By sharing, kids will be urged to:
- Speak up about their experiences
- Help others who may be struggling to explain what they are going through to figure out if they are showing signs of mental illness
- Break down the discrimination and stigma surrounding mental illnesses
- Show others that they are not alone in their feelings and symptoms
What Kids Are Saying
If you ever wondered what teens and adolescents really talk about, here’s your chance. While it’s sad to hear how some lonely teens suffer, by venting, and describing their depression, many can let others know they are all actually members of a very large group.
These are a few excerpts:
“You want your life to get better, but everything is so hard to do and you have no motivation.”
“It’s hard to be happy, to love, or accept love.”
“You need to hug someone. But at the same time, you don’t want anyone to hug you.”
Along with confessions and stories from kids that suffer from depression, the website offers some handy toolkits and simple tips for battling the blues. To fight back when depression strikes, NHA offers these seven tips:
- Figure out what lifts your spirits and make a list you can refer to when you start to feel down. Some things you might include:
- funny websites
- movies that make you laugh
- pictures of good times
- playing with a pet
- taking a bath
- phone numbers of people you like to talk to
- place you like to go
- Get moving! Get your body’s feel good chemicals flowing.
- Take a brisk walk
- Go up and down stairs
- Do some jumping jacks
Aim for 30 minute sessions, the site recommends. You can always break these down to three two-minute sessions to make it easier.
- Remind yourself that everything does not suck by keeping a journal. Take some time each night to write down:
- three things that you are grateful for
- three things that you achieved during the day
- three good things that happened
- If your To-do list seems overwhelming, take a few moments to determine how much time it actually takes to complete each of your regular chores. For example, folding laundry may seem like a real pain, but only takes about 10 minutes. Rather than allowing it to sit and become a big intimidating laundry pile, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment in getting it done.
- Start with quick tasks
- Build up momentum
- Then take care of time-consuming task
- Call someone you trust and ask them to talk with you or just sit with you. Having a non-judging person present, you can open up, or at least feel less alone. If you can’t get in touch with a friend or family member, go to www.warmline.org to find someone to talk to in your state.
- Challenge your negative thoughts about yourself. Being depressed can make you feel like:
- something you’ve done was horrible
- you’re ugly
- you don’t deserve good things to happen
But what if someone you love told you they were feeling this way? What would you say to them?
- Make an appointment with a therapist or counselor. It might take a while to get an appointment, but once you have that relationship, it will be easier to set up appointments in the future. Making this first step can make you feel like:
- you have made progress
- you have a sense of control over your condition
- you have hope for the future
Depression and Suicide
Any alarming comments about suicide should be taken very seriously. If you are afraid that your depressed teen might be contemplating suicide, never ignore their threats or attempts to hurt themselves. Call a healthcare provider or suicide hotline immediately. You can call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-999-9999 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from anywhere in the U.S.
Recovery is Always Possible
Getting effective treatment for depression early could help your teenager feel better sooner, and it could also prevent future episodes. Research also shows that mental health intervention, a safe, positive environment, and coping skills can help adolescents and teens develop effective tactics for Discovery Mood and Anxiety . The goal of Discovery Mood and Anxiety is recovery. Life will never be perfect, but learning some essential tools for dealing with the daily ups and downs can make a major difference for someone struggling with behavior disorders. If your teen or adolescent is struggling with the symptoms of depression, Discovery Mood can help.
Don’t Wait for a Crisis!
Call us now at 800.760.3934. Our personalized behavior modification programs are tailored to fit your family’s needs. Discovery Mood provides multi-faceted levels of care that range from residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, to partial hospitalization for adolescents and teens that are struggling with depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, self-harm behaviors, gender identity, oppositional defiant disorder, eating disorders, and other major mental health disorders.
Call now and speak with one of our highly trained admission specialists today. Or click on the link below for a FREE Mental Health Evaluation. All calls are completely FREE and strictly confidential.
MentalHealthAmerica.net: Infographic: Life with Depression. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
The Daily Universe: Technology: Is it making kids anti-social? by Morgan Hampton. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
CNBC: Social media making millennials less social, by Uptin Saiidi. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
Virginia Tech Study: The iPhone Effect -The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices, by Shalini Misra, Lulu Cheng, Jamie Genevie, Miao Yuan. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
Pacific Standard Magazine: Even Just the Presence of a Smartphone Lowers the Quality of In-Person Conversations, by Tom Jacobs. Retrieved October 11, 2016.