Kia ora koutou
Global Youth Mental Health Crisis
I was recently doing some research for an article on some of the complex global problems we are facing in the world today. Along with the much talked about global climate crisis and increasing inequity and poverty there was mention of a less well known crisis – the global youth mental health crisis. This crisis has jumped from being nowhere on the list to near the top in a very short period of time. This is something that is certainly making itself known to many families and it is quickly becoming noticeable in schools. In schools we now have an unprecedented number of students with high anxiety, depression, suicide ideation and thoughts of, or actual, self-harm. Increasingly younger children are doing serious harm to themselves.
As a society, we need to ask ourselves why this is so and what we can do about it. Certainly we know that technology is a contributor. Though young people are more connected than they have ever been as a result of social media, it has been suggested that they are less deeply connected in enduring relationships of unconditional regard. With social media, relationships are often more superficial and less based in reality. On social media people are able to present a “romantic” or “idyllic” view of their lives and they are able to present themselves as the heroes in their own stories. This can contribute to other people’s feelings of inadequacy because their own lives do not measure up. On social media, our lives can be airbrushed.
Parents are increasingly not sufficiently present as a result of the devices that are continually in their hands and taking their attention. Though physically present, parents are more frequently mentally and emotionally absent – still working even though working hours have long been over. Children are being left to their own devices – babysat by you tube and other over-stimulating apps.
There are many other factors contributing to the global youth mental health crisis that may be out of our control, but being present and attentive to our children is one thing we can do. I urge us all to put aside our devices and pay more attention to our children. This way they will grow up knowing they are valued and unconditionally loved by their parents; and this will help them to have the resilience they need to face a troublesome and, at times, difficult world.
Nga mihi nui ki a koutou katoa