Why are there so many mental health problems in 2019?
I remember about thirteen years ago when we were all sitting outside our workplace, having a ten minute enforced break, puffing away on our cigarettes, and my manager came up and told me that I was lucky I was getting help now. That before long the world would be over-run with Mental Health problems. That at the very least one in four people would struggle with Mental Health. I believed her of course, I remember thinking it was mainly because we are becoming more aware now. That the mind is less of a mystery than it ever was, and doctors have a better understanding of the struggles people go through.
I was partially right of course. Partially people suffer more from Mental Health today because back when I was a young boy my weirdness was seen as just that — weirdness. To be diagnosed with any form of Autism in the 80’s you had to have some serious struggles. But now with a bit of testing and observation from several professionals we generally have a good handle on whether or not it’s a form of Autism. Autism is a spectrum, so people like me can be called high functioning, as in I can pass myself off as a general member of the population without anyone being suspect. You have to know me a bit better to understand those deeper intricacies.
But I was also wrong on many levels. Whilst our awareness has grown, so has our unawareness, and our general lackluster approach at life in general. People are far lazier than they have ever been, people are far more dependent on technology, and a wide variety of other things that are contributing to the seriousness of the skyrocketing rise of Mental Health problems.
We weren’t ready for any of this
The world wasn’t ready. The world got up in a big hurry and moved on. Prisoners incarcerated in 1990, and being released today would get a massive shock to the system. If you think about it we don’t even need to talk to someone to get most things done these days. Shopping is done at the click of the button, as is ordering food and going to the movies. If you work at home like I do there is virtually no need to leave the house unless you force yourself to. Everyone has a car, some even two. There has been more progression in the last thirty years than at any point in human history.
And we weren’t ready for it. None of it. I’m one of the last generations that remembers climbing trees. That remembers going out in the park and playing football with my mates. I remember going out at 8-9am in the morning and only coming back for food, then going out again. The life I led only twenty years ago is a far sight from the one I lead now. And no-one told us how to navigate it. They just told us that here was your new phone with unlimited internet access and to get on with it.
Then they introduced us to Facebook. Facebook was amazing at first because it was the first platform anywhere where you didn’t need to pay to connect with or message people. Back then it was like the golden ticket to freedom. But if you think Facebook is innocent in all this then think again. They have addiction specialists there — yes, they actually have people working at Facebook devising ways to keep your eyes down and looking at your screen to the expense of, oh, I don’t know — your kids, your partner, your family?
Yes, you can do a degree in Computing & Psychology these days. It would have been the route I went if my wife hadn’t warded me off it. I eventually went the Business route because there were more job opportunities. She took psychology with her Languages degree and thoroughly regretted it. She didn’t want the same for me. My thoughts were that I was deeply interested in the ways and means that humans interact with technology from a psychological perspective. User Interface types. Think windows for PC. If it wasn’t heavy on user interaction then it would just be a command line and people wouldn’t have a clue.
So yes, addiction specialists are a thing, and there’s such a thing as Internet Addiction because of social media. And as we grew addicted to our technology we didn’t have the slightest clue how to help our children with it. I’m still learning the ropes myself. If I told you I had all the answers then I’d be wrong. Here I am, working at the PC when that wasn’t a thing thirty years ago so I am the last one to talk.
More cars about
One of the things that stop me from letting my son roam out and about is that there’s far more traffic on the road than there previously was. My first thought isn’t to the crazies walking the streets, in fact there are less of them now than there was when I was young because people are more aware of that behaviour. It’s easier and more riskier to get caught. Why risk being a social media sensation when you can stay at home googling little boys bums or whatever creepy shit they’re into. But as for the risk of my Son being run over, and he isn’t that road safe right now, I’m going to pass on letting him go out alone like I did.
And it’s sad because kids should learn to form tight friendships through play. Children playing is how they learn. If you look at any child they will learn far more about friendships through play, than they ever will at a desk supping up information from the teacher. And more and more of this is being lost — it’s harder to rid yourself of friends you have known since you were five or six, than the one’s you’ve made only for a year or so.
We all knew each other in our areas. Even the big kids knew who the little kids were — and in some form of weird hierarchical authority, the bigger kids would make sure we towed the line. This is no more. Age isn’t a factor of authority, and regularly people are having less and less respect for older people.
So what does that mean? Well, it means less authentic connections with people. Less playing outside until the sun goes down, and less forging those long standing human connections we did in the 80’s. Yes, it was tough thirty years ago, but no tougher than it is now. People socialised so much more in person. We had to. There was nothing else to connect is in the way that there is now.
Less physical human connection
Why go and visit someone when you can connect with them online? It’s easier and quicker. I worked in Mental Health for over ten years and most people agree that they have felt more connected to people than ever, but at the same time they have never felt as lonely. Disparaging isn’t it? On one hand we are connected to everyone that has ever connected to us, but on the other hand we are unable to see, speak, hear, or touch them.
Did you know that human connection; any human connection, is one of the truest forms of staving off depression? Having someone to just share your life with on a friendship level, be close to them, such as a handshake can increase those positive hormones ten fold? The body gives off a hormone that is released whenever we are in contact with other people. Lack of receiving this hormone, such as connecting on the Internet all day, is bad for your mental health. This is why I say connect with people lots, and as much as you can. You are starving yourself of human connection.
Echo chambers in social media
I don’t want to be one of those people that walk around saying that, “in my day we slept on a bed of nails and had to put up with it” because I’m not. But in my day you had to deal with people saying bad stuff. Especially when I was a kid — and that prepared me for real life.
Listen, the world is an unkind place, and it won’t care if you are a bottom dweller under a bridge or a high and mighty Lord of the realm. If it wants to shit on you it will, and from a bloody great height. These aren’t things specifically designed and planned out for you personally. Bad things happen to everyone, horrible people exist, and well, we just have to navigate through our lives and sift out those that we connect with well versus those that we don’t.
One thing I’ve found out in life is that it really matters how you deal with situations. Bad things happen. No-one has a crystal clear easy life. Life is 10% stuff happening, 90% how you deal with it. Some people just haven’t been socialised to deal with this correctly and social media is making it far worse. We are reinforcing unhealthy attitudes to conversation and connection and getting rid of the stuff that makes us stronger, and enables us to grow. Yes, cruel and unkind things have been said and done to me — but I wouldn’t have learned anything from it if I had never experienced any of it.
A combination of the latter
And because of the last three, us humans are far more self-interested now. More interested in what we can get out of life than what we can put into it. We don’t care about anyone else bar ourselves. We barely know our next door neighbours. We used to have community, a gathering of people where we all knew each other to some level. But all of that is done online now, away from human connection and in our own echo chambers.
Okay, so the world will never be the same as it was yesterday. But we can learn to healthily live within it. We can learn to understand the factors that are hindering us and turn them into strengths rather than get caught in the negatives.
Instead of having your head in your phone 24/7 you could learn to alternate between phone time and spending quality time with your family, yourself — or just another friend.
Rather than spending all day with little to no human interaction go out and join a group. If you can’t find a group then start your own. I’m sure there are plenty of people that are in the same situation as you absolutely starving for connection.
Venture out more. Enjoy nature. Go down the beach. Go into the local woods. Roll around in the dirt. Be more at one with nature. Believe it or not, humans aren’t supposed to be holed up in brick houses. We’re supposed to be in caves, and stick huts at one with the earth around us — reacquaint yourself with your primal self.
Connect with people in your community. See what the underlying problems are, work together to fix them, and take pride in knowing your doing something to positively benefit the area you live in.
Learn to give. Join a charity, give your free time to a good cause. Learn the good feeling of giving without want of return.
These are just some of the ways to drastically improve the quality of your life!