If memory serves me correct, this is the sixth year that the Tribune has turned our logo green in support of Mental Health Awareness Month. As I’ve written over the years, this is a cause that I feel is one of the most important, yet maybe also one of the most overlooked (or at least underserved).
While there are many types of mental health illnesses worthy of discussion, I wanted to touch on the mental health of children in this column. It’s one that I experienced directly during the pandemic and probably became my single most challenging moment as a parent.
In a recent article in the New York Times, it noted that mental health in adolescents began to deteriorate sometime around 2009, which not coincidentally, falls in line with when social media and the iPhone started their stranglehold on our lives.
These things have not only changed behaviors in our children (and ourselves), but also how we parent. We all were learning in real-time what it was like to have all of this information and access at our fingertips and how it could help, but not necessarily how much it could hurt us. I believe the pandemic exacerbated the effects it has had on all of us and it’s these effects that are beginning to shout from the rooftops.
I’m sure we could make an enormous list of pros and cons that things like technology and social media have had on our lives but at the end of the list, I’m not sure which one outweighs the other — and if one does, to what degree?
I don’t think it is news to anyone that we have seen less time spent on in-person activities and more time spent with technology. Less time with people can eventually put a strain on things like exercise and sleep and eventually lead into isolation, loneliness, and depression — all things that can lead to mental health illness.
As with any identification of a mental health issue, it starts with paying attention. Of course every instance is unique and different, but I believe for the most part that talking to the individual if you feel or see that something might be wrong, is a pretty good first step.
Often times people suffering can feel that no one will listen, or perhaps if they do speak out, they fear the repercussions. Social media has intensified people’s ability to say mean and demeaning things that can only worsen this type of situation – especially if it occurs amongst their peers or in a school setting.
That’s why it’s important to be present for the initial discussion. Having this discussion face to face with your child, I believe, is critical. You have to read body language and let them read yours. They have to know you are there to help and not to judge or criticize. It’s only then when the lines of communication can open up and the process towards healing can begin.
Granted, I am not a doctor. And, like I said, every situation is distinctive. But, speaking from my own experience, once that initial conversation happened, and we both could be open and honest about what was happening and how we might go about making it better, everything changed — including our relationship, which was strengthened by the process.
On a bigger scale, that’s why the Tribune turns the logo green. For everyone that asks why it is green, hopefully there is an answer that elicits a response, which drives awareness, or better yet, action.
Whether it is through awareness, advocacy, support, or volunteering, the more people that can help spread the word about the services that are offered, or simply understand the symptoms, the better.
Please join us in bringing awareness during the month of May (and beyond). Even if the effort helps only one person, the effort will be worth it — especially if it is someone you love.
Publisher Rob Galloway can be reached at email@example.com or 530-542-8046.