By: Sean Hughes
Mental health and the stigma it poses to people’s daily life has come a long way. Not too long ago it was considered taboo to talk about what you are feeling in fear of being a burden to those around you. Today that mindset still exists for some, but it is far more common today to seek help for mental health issues as easily as one would seek help for a physical health issue. While it’s exceptional that more people are open to getting mental health treatment, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the quality of one’s mental health, in general, is better nowadays. Ultimately, the number of people seeking mental health treatment has risen, but so have the rates of mental health conditions.
It’s no secret, COVID-19 put a multitude of constraints on our mental and physical wellbeing. Stay-at-home orders dramatically changed not only how we communicate with others but also how often we do. Even from a business side, companies had no other choice but to go remote, same with schools. Now that the health risks of COVID-19 are no longer imminent, we are seeing the ripple effect of its emergence. Some companies and schools remain remote further encouraging lifestyles consistent with loneliness. It’s important to note that a remote occupation or course does not automatically make someone more isolated and lonely, it simply makes it easier for that feeling to take over.
Socially, the pandemic threw a major curveball at us, something we are still trying to figure out. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is developing a virtual world called the “Metaverse” that will essentially be a new and improved version of the internet. New ways to do business, chat with friends, buy products, and a lot more. An innovation that will require a deep understanding. In the meantime, apps like Zoom, FaceTime, and the abundance of social media will and should be closely monitored. These activities for some are as common as sleeping, but are on the radar of many doctors around the world - including U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Surgeon General published a call for action regarding the alarming rates of isolation and loneliness in the United States. The report included jarring statistics, one suggests that “lacking social connection can increase the risk for premature death as much as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day” (Murthy, 2023, p. 8). The data behind such a claim states that poor social connections increase the risk of heart disease by 29%, stroke by 32%, and the development of dementia by 50% among older adults. Murthy (2023) concluded that loneliness increases risk of premature death by over 25% (p. 8).
Collectively, the quality of Americans’ mental health has plummeted with the pandemic exacerbating that trend. Acknowledging this is both comforting and alarming. On one hand, it is concerning that so many people are facing the exact same problem. On the other hand, it is a less alienating feeling to be lonely with the understanding that so many others are as well.
The perception that struggles to socially connect are unique to oneself can significantly amplify feelings of loneliness, but this couldn't be further from reality. This doesn't mean that one should simply embrace loneliness and social isolation because others also experience it. Instead, it is important to seek treatment for these issues, considering they are common and therefore less stigmatized.
It’s ironic that social media companies and apps promote social isolation rather than social connection. Although social media apps can be extraordinary tools to engage with friends or family in ways that are otherwise impossible, there’s still a catch. Social media apps are designed to keep you using them, after all that’s how they make money - more views, more money. The developers for these apps recognize this too.
TikTok and YouTube both present screen limit warnings to users that have been browsing for an extended period of time. In fact, TikTok recently launched a system that limits users under 18 to 60 minutes of app usage per day (Maheshwari, 2023). While this is a step in the right direction, these precautions were taken after TikTok CEO Shou Chew stood before Congress over concerns of data breaching.
In order to stay in business, social media apps need to be designed to keep our attention, they are almost working too well, screen limits or not. Makarin et al. (2022) suggested that, in total, adverse effects of the use of Facebook are equivalent to 20% of the magnitude of losing a job. Again, this is an activity that is involuntary, you don’t choose to lose your job. It is a heartbreaking reality that’s costing young people their lives; “the suicide rate among 10- to 24-year-olds was stable from 2000 to 2007; it then increased 57% between 2007 and 2017” (Curtin & Heron, 2019).
Depression and loneliness can be incredibly challenging experiences for individuals, impacting their overall well-being and quality of life. Fortunately, events like the Every1In Wellness & Abilities Fair offer valuable resources and support for those struggling with these conditions. Attending the fair provides a unique opportunity to connect with companies dedicated to helping people with physical and mental disabilities, offering a range of services and treatments tailored to individual needs.
At the Every1In Wellness & Abilities Fair, participants can discover various workshops, presentations, and exhibitors that focus on addressing depression and loneliness. These resources can empower individuals by providing them with knowledge, tools, and strategies to manage their mental health more effectively. From therapy and counseling services to innovative technologies and community support programs, the fair brings together a diverse range of experts and organizations dedicated to making a positive difference in people's lives.
By attending this conference, individuals can explore different avenues for treatment, connect with supportive communities, and learn about new approaches to combat depression and loneliness.
The Every1In Wellness & Abilities Fair serves as a platform for individuals to find solace, encouragement, and practical solutions, ultimately promoting a sense of hope, resilience, and improved well-being.
Join us Saturday, September 30, 2023 9:00am to 5:00pm virtually or in person at Wisconsin Center
400 W. Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI.
To participate as a vendor, sponsor, or attend, visit our website for information: https://every1in.com/en/
1. Death rates due to suicide and homicide among persons aged 10–24 ... (n.d.). https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db352-h.pdf
2. Maheshwari, S. (2023, March 23). Tiktok claims it’s limiting teen screen time. teens say it isn’t. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/23/business/tiktok-screen-time.html
3. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH). (2023, May 3). New Surgeon General Advisory raises alarm about the devastating impact of the epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the United States. HHS.gov. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/05/03/new-surgeon-general-advisory-raises-alarm-about-devastating-impact-epidemic-loneliness-isolation-united-states.html
4. Walsh, D. (2022, September 14). Study: Social media use linked to decline in mental health. MIT Sloan. https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/study-social-media-use-linked-to-decline-mental-health