Writing about mental health is generic but increasingly important. Each generation is of course troubled, and if everyone throughout time had the means to blog about it, I’m sure the internet would be full of descriptions and remedies to ever-changing mental obstacles. One question that is becoming increasingly apparent is whether or not mental health has actually changed, and the answer is without a doubt of course it has. I watched a young guest journalist on Sky News the other day speak about how young people should not always class their feelings as mental health ‘problems’, because when she was younger she was ‘told to just buck up and get on with it’. Though, it is exactly this ideology that exacerbates mental health obstacles, and shows exactly how mental health has changed. It is not enough to buck up and get on with it, it has to be dealt with, and in a different way to how our parents, grandparents etc dealt with it.
Primarily, the way in which we speak about mental health has to change. The common terms that surround mental health are “mental health problems” and “mental health issues”, but this alone is creating even more stigma around the subject. What each of us put up with on a daily basis in our minds is solvable, fixable, or able to be dealt with. Labelling them as problems and issues creates this idea that it might never be dealt with because of the negative light of how it is described. For example, when someone breaks their arm we don’t say they have an arm problem, we ascribe that term to an ongoing problem that could never be fixed, like an elderly person with a back problem. Whereas, mental health shouldn’t be seen as this dark taboo, but something that can be faced and overcome. By ascribing words such as ‘obstacles’ and ‘hurdles’ creates a better way in which we view mental health. Though the question is how have these obstacles manifested in our generation?
Focussing on specifically anxiety, the common idea of how anxiety is different in the modern world is based upon expectation. The general idea is that each day we are exposed to an unreal expectation of being, and so we each try to live up to that and often fail, leaving us disappointed and dissatisfied with ourselves. I agree in part with this, as I do totally believe that the internet and social media has completely transformed the way in which mental health is experienced nowadays. However, I feel that the idea of expectation is no longer apparent to the people who have been involved with social media their whole lives. I understand there are thousands of ways that social media affects us, though at the moment two prominent effects stand out.
The internet has not made the world more social. It is very difficult to be truthfully publicly open on social media, instead we are able to exhibit a specific lifestyle that we want to exhibit, be it honest or not. This in turn has changed social media from sharing about who we are to creating who we are; transforming a network of social communication into a solipsistic way of life. Because of this, we no longer depend on the expectations of other people, and truthfully not many people are satisfied when those expectations are fulfilled. Instead, we are only aiming to please ourselves and more so please the person that we want to be. Our mental obstacles are no longer the result of falling short of expectation from others, but falling short from the exception of how we want to see ourselves. We’ve stopped editing pictures and checking mirrors to impress other people, we do it to try and constantly impress ourselves, each time trying to be better and better, which will clearly have a catastrophic effect on our mental health when our bodies start to change, when something in life does not go as planned, when we see ourselves at a ‘bad angle’, or when a t-shirt doesn’t fit. This is one of the main troubling effects of social media, that is continuing to erode our capabilities to be happy, and intwined with how our emotions are thrown around does not bode well for a healthy mind.
How social media controls our emotions is the second prominent effect of the internet today. Everyday our emotions are thrown around at a rate we cannot even imagine, and it is all down to social media. In this case, I am explicitly talking about Facebook, which has the ability to make us feel so many different things in such a short space of time. No doubt so many people (including myself) have no clue how to feel these days, it seems our emotions change so quickly that we have lost what it feels like to just be ‘ok’. For example, you wake up at 9am, by 9:02 you’re on Facebook, by 9:03 you feel happy because you’ve just watched a video of puppies playing, by 9:04 you feel sad because you’ve just seen a clip of an animal slaughter process, by 9:05 you feel jealous because you’ve just seen that your friend has bought the jacket you wanted or modelled for a brand that you like, by 9:06 you feel worried because the person you like hasn’t sent you a “Good morning:)” text yet, by 9:07 you feel relieved because the message just came through, and by 9:08 you’re sat downstairs watching Victoria Derbyshire, a complete wreck, with no fucking idea how to feel. Not even 10 minutes after you’ve opened your eyes and you already feel like you’ve watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The point is that it definitely cannot be healthy for growing minds to experience and deal with so many emotions in such a short space of time. The reason we can never say that we are just ‘ok’ is because we never are, and we never can be when our lives circulate around the happenings of others and are dictated by the scrolling of a thumb. Our anxieties are therefore reflections of our lack of ability to detach ourselves from a life that is now so ritual to us.
Due to how mental obstacles have changed so drastically over time, a change in how these hurdles are treated must come into play too. In this case however, it seems the only effective way people can treat themselves is by detachment from social media, which is next to impossible for most of the day. One thing is certain though, older generations attempting to treat younger generations in the way they were taught to treat them years ago is next to futile. If anything, the change in treatment of mental health has to come from the generation that is experiencing these changes. Not only do we know the obstacles better than anyone, many of us have been lucky enough to deal with these hurdles and find ways to treat anxieties and anxiety induced obstacles as daily minor inconveniences, and this information must be shared in order to help the people to deal with mental health manifestations that have never been experienced before.