Before we begin: May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 24 hours a day if you or someone you care about is experiencing suicidal thoughts.
A little background information about me before I start writing today’s column.
My grandmother died on September 11, 2001, when I woke up. She wasn’t in New York, at the Pentagon, or on any hijacked flight. She was at home alone with a gun and her thoughts.
Although I knew suicide and depression existed, I had never experienced them. My world was completely changed when I was in 8th grade.
You can expect sadness when someone in your life takes such a drastic decision. You will feel a wave of overwhelming anger at the selfishness of the person, but that’s what people don’t tell you about suicide. You are so stupid to think they could do that to you! They should have realized the damage they were causing to their friends and families.
They could leave you like that!
I eventually was able to forgive. It is easy to see that people feel they have no control. They need to accept that they don’t have any control. Depression is a mental illness. It does not lead to rational decisions. Sometimes it can be unbearable. They want it to end.
Later on in my life, I was able to recognize the signs of depression within myself. They are most noticeable on weekends for me. My family, my job as an educator, my daily radio show, writing here, and my family all make it difficult for me to think clearly. On weekends, however, things slow down and I am more likely to let those negative thoughts linger and drag me down.
I have never experienced suicidal thoughts or any tendency toward self-harm. My grandmother is the reason. That loss is something I do not want to see in my family.
The numbers in the United States are increasing, but it’s not just one group.
There are a number of suicides among college athletes. Katie Meyer, a Stanford soccer player. Sarah Schulze, a track star from Wisconsin, is the Wisconsin Track Star. Lauren Burnett, a softball player at James Madison University is available.
After a series of suicides by the crew in the past year, the sailors aboard the USS George Washington were removed from their aircraft carrier.
We are seeing an increase in suicide, self-harm, and depression among teens. More people are being admitted to hospitals for mental health problems. A very disturbing and tragic trend is emerging.
A piece in The Atlantic has recently broken down many of the trends among teens.
A survey of nearly 8,000 high school students conducted by the government in the first six months of 2021 found that there was a lot of variation in mental health between different groups. One in four girls said they had considered suicide during the pandemic. This was double the number of boys. Nearly half (48%) of LGBTQ teens reported that they considered suicide during the pandemic. This compares to only 14 percent of heterosexual peers. White teens seem to be sadder than other groups.
The overall picture is the same for all age groups: Nearly every measure of mental illness is getting worse and it’s happening across the country. For teens of all races, including those of straight and gay sexes, and those who claim they have never had sex or with females, the levels of sadness and despair have risen since 2009.
We blame the pandemic for a lot of these problems. For over a year, our children were left at home, being isolated and being deprived of intellectual, social, and emotional development. While some kids returned to school sooner than others in certain areas, many children got the same results. Students were more isolated than ever before the pandemic.
The pandemic is an example of a new catalyst that has only made an already serious problem worse. The actual origin of our mental health crisis could be 2012 when 50 percent of Americans owned a smartphone for the first time. This was also the year that social media started its rapid rise to prominence.
Social media isn’t toxic like rat poison. It’s more similar to alcohol. A mildly addictive substance, it can be used to enhance social situations and can lead to dependence and depression in a small number of users.
This is very similar to what Instagram has concluded. According to the company’s 2020 internal research, most users felt a positive connection with Instagram. However, one-third said that Instagram made them feel worse. These girls were “unable to resist” logging in. If you still don’t believe Facebook is a company, check out a new Cambridge University study that found social media is strongly associated with poor mental health during sensitive times in life, especially for girls aged 11-13.
How could social media have such an impact on teenage mental health? One reason is that teens (and especially teenage girls) are extremely sensitive to the judgments of teachers, friends, and the internet crowd. As I have written, social media can hijack this keen peer sensibility and drive obsessive thoughts about body image. Social media can not only fuel anxiety, but it also makes it more difficult for young people to deal with their growing pains.
Social media tells our girls what they should look like and how to act. Our children are being told by a few psychologists that they don’t fit into a certain mold. You’re different. You are not male/female. You’re special. It’s a dangerous world out there. Transgender children are coming out as gender fluid and transgender. They are identifying as trans and gender-fluid at an insanely high rate than ever before. This is partly because they have spent more time at home watching TikTok than going out with their friends.
It’s not only teens. Adults are more isolated than ever. While we are more connected to each other than ever via our smartphones, when it comes down to face-to-face interaction, we would rather be at the table in silence, texting than actually speaking.
We have lost sight of the most important lesson in society, which is to be together and share our food with others. This is due to the fact that we look at people who think differently from us and push them away, rather than working together. It happens on both sides (though there are studies that show that progressives are more likely to have conservative friends than vice versa), which leads to more fracture.
Humans are social creatures instinctively. Social interaction is what we seek. This is how we learn, grow, and sometimes even change our minds. We have given up on in-person interaction which is more emotionally connected and empathic, in favor of digital interactions that are cold and lifeless.
The mental health crisis we are facing is reaching a critical point. While we need to heal, we actively resist healing in favor of more division.