Who Will Save Our Mental Health from Technology?

Saving our mental health

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A Former Google Manager is Spearheading Efforts to Limit the Negative Effects of Technology and Social Media

What are the negative effects of technology and social media on us? We’re aware of its influences on our mental health, with studies linking excessive social media use to depression and anxiety. What other grips does cyber-reality have on us?

In 2012, a young manager at Google named Tristan Harris made an impassioned plea in a presentation for his bosses to attend to “[our] moral responsibility to create an attention economy that doesn’t weaken people’s relationships or distract people to death.”

His ideas for a more ethical digital world gained some traction for a time, and it even got him tapped to be the company’s design ethicist. The company lost focus, however, and shifted its attention to other priorities.

Harris left Google in 2015, and three years later, Google produced a screentime tracker known as Digital Wellbeing, so that Android users could see how much time they were spending each day on each application they tapped into. Apple followed suit with a counterpart app for iPhones.

Continuing the Crusade

Were the new screentime tracker apps enough of a leash? Not according to Harris. In Harris’ estimation, the “free” busines model is the most expensive business model ever invented.

More recently, Harris started the Center for Humane Technology, and has expanded his thinking to bring more awareness to the negative impacts of the internet on our lives. From misinformation/disinformation being proliferated on various social media platforms (e.g., Facebook and YouTube (owned by Google)), to election tampering and invaded privacy, and finally to political divisiveness in our country, the internet gets blamed for a lot. And probably with good reason. Just think about how much control we give our cyberlives over our actual lives.

Harris continues to grow his audience with various national media appearances, conferences, and additional presentations of his own. The biggest takeaway he wants his listeners to remember is the mistake it is to treat mobile technology drawbacks as mutually exclusive from those inflicted by social media. It’s all part of what he refers to as the “extractive attention economy (EAE).”

Our Private Information Used as a Currency

It’s been said that “money talks.” Well, so does information in the EAE. Its business model is driven by gathering and leveraging data about its users and what they like. In order to keep them engaged online, more and more of what users want to see is constantly being fed to them, faster and faster, by automated platforms. This may sound great and convenient, but it actually gives them more extreme, sensationalized content, which only feeds upon their frailties.

Without any thought, judgment, or intent, people dealing with mental health issues might be looking on YouTube for ways to improve their mental health, while being unwittingly steered via “recommendations” toward videos about suicide and death. The only thing the platforms care about is how the relationships between what users are searching for and what the algorithms calculate they like will keep users online, engaged and clicking.

The Unbearable Lightness of Technology

What happened to “fun” social media? Harris warns that our addiction to retweets, likes, comments, and reshares, is only keeping us distracted and depressed.

Steve Jobs spoke of technology as an “exercise bicycle for the mind.” Harris has responded that the exercise bike is taking us down dark, unfamiliar roads where we might not ever want to find ourselves.

Harris believes that language can help shape reality, but he had to work through a growing fear that the language we were using to define the real impact of cyber-reality on our lives was very much lacking. It wasn’t enough to describe what he warns as a coming hellstorm.

One of his epiphanies was the realization that the real danger we’re in isn’t technology overpowering our strengths (like the cliche science fiction bit when computers take over the world). The real danger is when technology learns to overwhelm and leverage our emotional weaknesses against us… for profit.

Harris and his cohorts brainstormed themselves to a point where they thought that what might be going on was a process of diminishing, of degrading human lives and humanity as a whole. Technology, as we give it more and more of our time and attention, is causing the the downgrading of human relationships, of human attention, of our common sense of decency, of democracy itself.

How Social Media Negatively Affects Us

Harris has commented specifically about how various social media platforms negatively affect us:

  • Snapchat turns conversations into “streaks,” redefining how children value real friendship.
  • Instagram glamorizes the picture-perfect life, eroding our sense of gratitude for our real lives, along with diminishing our sense of self-worth.
  • Facebook puts us into separate echo chambers, dissolving our real communities.
  • YouTube autoplays the one video after the next, within seconds, regardless of what it does to our sleep.

Four Ways Technology is Hurting Us

Harris shares the four main ways he sees our subservience to technology is taking its toll:

Mental Health

The rat race to keep us on screen 24/7 makes it harder to disconnect, increasing stress, depression, anxiety, and sleep deprivation.

Children

The rat race to keep children’s attention trains them to replace their sense of self-worth with the number of likes they get, encourages them to compare themselves with others, and creates a non-stop illusion of missing out…which can lead to coping problems and mental health challenges.

Relationships

The competition for attention forces social media users to prefer virtual interactions and rewards (likes, shares, etc.) on their screens vs. interaction in a real face-to-face community.

Democracy

Social media unwittingly rewards faux rage, sensational facts, while reducing the role of factual information. It’s dividing us and making it increasingly difficult to agree on what is “real.”

So, where does this leave us? Possibly with additional challenges for those coping with mental health issues brought on by extensive technology use.

The good news is that you can take back control of your life by better managing your social media use.

Curious to hear more?

Do you suspect that excessive technology use and social networking are having a negative effect on your mental health or on that of a loved one? If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about mental illness or feelings of being overwhelmed, we want to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

Which Mental Health Concerns do Americans Worry About Most?

Which mental health concerns do Americans worry about most?

Which mental health concerns do you worry about?

Which mental health concerns do people worry about most in the United States? Why do we stress, and what do we stress about?

According to a recent study, more fellow Americans consistently suffer from mental and emotional distress. Unfortunately, many of them are unable to access adequate treatment, in spite of governmental efforts over the last 10 years to reduce such gaps in coverage.

The journal Psychiatric Services has analyzed interview data from census interviews and in 2017 estimated more than 3 percent of the U.S. population (in excess of 8 million Americans), suffer from what’s known as serious psychological distress (SPD). The term has been used to define feelings of worthlessness, despondency, and sadness dangerous enough to interfere with someone’s overall well being. Before the Psychiatric Services study, surveys have gauged SPD at around less than 3 percent.

SPD is more of a colloquial term than a medical diagnosis, though it overlaps significantly with clinical conditions like depression and anxiety. The survey consists of six questions, posed to participants in conjunction with an annual general health survey that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conduct. Every year the survey reaches over 35,000 households nationwide, and over 200,000 adults from several socioeconomic backgrounds.

Let’s discuss the implications.

Mental Illness in the U.S.

Research continues to indicate that reliable mental illness predictors remain difficult to pinpoint, even for common disorders such as depression. One factor that seems to lead many Americans into feeling depressed and anxious is an excess of free time with relatively few pressing demands. Interestingly, people  in less-developed countries are generally less depressed overall than we are in the U.S. For people in different parts of the world who are frequently in “survival mode,” dwelling on depressive feelings seems to take a back burner to more urgent demands. Based on this finding, one might argue that we’re “too comfortable”!

Over any given year, as many as 27 percent of American adults will go through some sort of mental health issue, making the U.S. the country with the highest prevalence of mental illness. Such disorders include anxiety disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, mood disorders, and substance abuse.

During a typical lifetime, the average American has a 47.4 percent chance (nearly one in two people) of having any kind of mental health disorder. For projected lifetime prevalence, the odds are stacked even higher: for those who reach age 75, chances can go as high as 55 percent.

What are the Most Common Mental Illnesses in the U.S.?

Mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, dysthymic (persistent depressive) disorder, and major depression are the most prevalent mental illnesses in the U.S.:

  • 7 percent of adults will experience one of these disorders during a given year, and over 21 percent will experience one of them during a lifetime.
  • Women are 50 percent more likely to suffer from mood disorders than men.
  • About 19 percent of all American adults will go through some sort of anxiety disorder this year, but this number jumps to around 31 percent during a lifetime.

Mental Illness Continues to be a Problem

What mental health issues are people in your state most concerned about? That depends upon where you live.

The modern “American” lifestyle involves “burning the candle at both ends” : constant stimulation, working overtime, and “keeping up with the Joneses: all continue to be formidable challenges for those struggling with mental health issues. As awareness increases, we turn to the one source of information we feel we can rely upon: Google.

There is an abundance of information available online, and it continues to be important to review as information from as many perspectives as possible. It’s also helpful to seek expert opinion when necessary.

What Credible Mental Health Sites Indicate

Life insurance provider TermLife2Go accessed mental health-related sites such as MentalHealth.gov and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)  to compile a list of the most common mental health conditions researched on Google, along with corresponding symptoms and stressors. The results were later run through Google Trends to pinpoint mental health concerns by state around the country between 2018 and 2019.

What are our mental health concerns?
Image courtesy of TermLife2Go

 

Some Discoveries

Right off the bat, major depressive disorder, internet addiction, and memory loss tied for the most Googled mental health concerns in America.

Other findings include:

  • Arizona, Maryland, and South Carolina were concerned about “stress at work,” while those in Georgia and Pennsylvanians researched “stress headaches.”
  • “Seasonal affective disorder” was the most Googled concern in Alaska, where days at a time can pass in the wintertime without even a glimpse of the sun.
  • Utah and Louisiana were wanting to know more about postpartum depression. As for Utah, the CDC typically ranks the state in the top ten for highest birth rates.
  • Massachusetts, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington worried about possible internet addiction, while Missouri was concerned about social media habits.
  • Alcoholism is the top mental health concern for those in Minnesota, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

Moving Forward With Your Mental Health Management

Do your research and find out what you can about managing mental illness if you need to. Individuals can manage many mental health issues, but often they become overwhelming and seemingly unmanageable. This is when you might seriously consider seeking out a mental health professional.

What are your biggest mental health concerns? Leave us a comment below!

What is the latest regarding your mental health? Always remember that it is very treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

 

 

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Celebrating 70 Years of Mental Health Awareness Month: “Seizing the Awkward,” 2019

may is mental health awareness month

Awareness

How is Mental Health Awareness Month celebrated? Since 1949, May has been deemed “Mental Health Awareness Month,” raising awareness among millions of people through media, screenings, and local events. Whether you deal with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or whatever else might be challenging you, this is your month, and in a good way!

This year, Mental Health America (MHA) is doubling down on last year’s Mental Health Awareness Month of #4Mind4Body, and taking it to the next level. They plan on showcasing such topics as spirituality, humor, work-life balance, social connections, recreation, and animal companionship, all as ways to raise interest and awareness around mental health and overall wellness for individuals.

Each year millions of Americans (about one in five) live with mental illness, as do their families, and everything mental illness brings with it. Through fighting stigma, providing support, educating the public, and advocating for public policies that in support of those with mental illness, a significant impact can be made for better.

During Mental Health Month, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will be running its own awareness campaign, known as WhyCare?.  What is the WhyCare campaign about? NAMI states that it is an “opportunity to share the importance of care in our relationships to others, in mental health treatment and services, and in support and education to millions of people, families, caregivers, and loved ones affected by mental illness.” According to NAMI, demonstration of how and why we care helps bring more awareness to pertinent issues by showing participant actions and connections to others. Furthermore, NAMI submits that caring has the power to make a significant impact on all those affected by mental health conditions.

 

Highlights from MHA’s upcoming Mental Health Awareness Month Celebration

Celebrate mental health awareness month by loving those who need love

Let’s walk through just a few highlights of what MHA will be showcasing during May 2019, from their downloadable toolkit.

Download the full MHA Toolkit here.

Spirituality & Religion

 Don’t let anyone convince you that religion is always a taboo subject for discussion. Whether you meditate, practice yoga, or attend church, being mindful of the health of your soul is critical aspect of caring for yourself. It can even improve physical and mental health while you’re at it.

  • 29 percent of individuals polled are both spiritual and religious.
  • 18 percent are spiritual but not religious.
  • 31 percent are neither spiritual or religious.
  • 22 percent are religious, but not spiritual.
  • In people born with heart diseases, being religious or spiritual led to healthier behaviors, better quality of life, and higher life satisfaction.
  • Having a sense of meaning, purpose, or connection to something larger than oneself is associated with positive mental health outcomes in people receiving cancer treatment.
  • One study found that people who attended religious services monthly showed a 22 percent lower risk of depression.
  • Spiritual and religious beliefs related to meaning, peace, and faith were associated with reduced suicide risk and better mental health in people getting dialysis treatments.

    May is a month to take care of you and others with mental health struggles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humor

Having a healthy sense of humor in regard to day-to-day life can lift your mood and help people to better cope with and overcome di­fficult times. Don’t be afraid to learn to laugh about your difficulties and struggles; just because you can learn to lighten a situation by laughing about it doesn’t mean you’re not handling it seriously, nor does it make it any less real or valid.

Eight interesting facts about laughter:

  • It stimulates your muscles, heart, and lungs.
  • It decreases the levels of stress hormones.
  • It increases activity in your brain’s “reward system” areas.
  • It releases endorphins (your body’s natural pain blockers).
  • It promotes anxiety relief and a better overall mood.
  • It strengthens your immune system.
  • It reduces burnout in all areas of life.
  • It helps you interact better with others.

Work-life balance is important in managing your mental healthWork-life Balance

 Work teaches you values like patience, persistence, and character. It allows you to provide for yourself and your family as you serve a purpose in your community. When it takes over your life, however, it can be detrimental to your health. Better work-life balance is in order.

Eight facts about work in the United States:

  • People surveyed who feel they have good work-life balance are more satisfied with their jobs and their lives, and experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Working overtime increases the likelihood of having symptoms of depression, especially in men.
  • Of adults employed full time in the U.S., nearly 40 percent reported working at least 50 hours per week, and 18% work 60 hours or more.
  • Over 75 percent of Americans surveyed are afraid of getting punished for taking a day off­ to attend to their mental health.
  • More than two-thirds of those surveyed have had their sleep negatively aff­ected by workplace issues.
  • Those who work in manufacturing, retail, and food/beverage jobs were most likely to report that work stress “always or often” impacts their personal relationships.
  • More than half of those surveyed say that they do unhealthy things (e.g. drinking, overworking, drug use, lashing out at others) to cope with workplace stress.
  • Poor work-life balance increases the risk for health conditions like sleep problems, digestive disorders, and mental health problems. This is especially true for people who work longer shifts or on nights and weekends.

Whatever you do for Mental Health Awareness Month, remember that it’s a time to both show and receive emotional support in regard to coping with mental health challenges.

DO YOU DO ANYTHING UNIQUE FOR MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH? WE’D LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT IT! LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!

Are you struggling with depression and/or anxiety? Both are treatable, and their treatment usually leads to an improved sense of overall wellness and better sleep. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.