To mark World Mental Health day, we’ve examined how technology has changed our everyday lives and how to keep your tech from affecting your mental health.
Modern technology and smartphones are responsible for a lot of good in our everyday lives, although too much of a good thing has the potential to be dangerous. We’ve investigated some strategies that we can all employ to stop our techy lives from overwhelming us, and summarised our findings in the graphic down below.
We also spoke to the experts at sane.org.uk to see how technology and social media can affect us and what sort of tactics we can use to deal with stress and anxiety on the move.
Q. Do you think technology such as social media and smartphones can be a problem for mental health?
One of the problems is the power of the internet, the influence of virtual friends, and the way in which 24/7 exposure on social media can have a potentially destructive effect on our sense of who we are. Young people in particular can find themselves damned if they do take part and damned if they don’t, as they risk becoming isolated from their peers.
More generally, the role of social media needs further examination, and parents and schools might do well to consider restricting the time children and adolescents spend using mobile devices and computers both inside and outside school. Such restrictions could benefit adults as well.
Q. What tactics for dealing with stress and anxiety can people apply to their everyday lives while they are on the move?
It is worth remembering that you are the best judge for what will work for you. It might be exercise, such as sports or long walks, gardening, relaxation and meditation techniques such as mindfulness. The important thing is to make the time to do these things, regardless of how busy you are, because looking after yourself and maintaining your mental health are more important than any deadline you may have.
While everyone has experienced periodic anxiety about exams, or job interviews, some people struggle to control constant feelings of anxiety to such an extent that it can have a profound effect on their daily lives. Some people may be afraid to go out, use public transport or go shopping; and symptoms include lost sleep due to worry, inability to concentrate or enjoy everyday activities, and feelings of unhappiness and worthlessness. If you experience these symptoms for more than a few weeks, you should consider going and speaking to your GP.
Q. SANE run SANEline, could you tell us a bit about that?
SANEline is the only specialist mental health helpline in the UK open out of hours, 365 days a year. The helpline, available on 0300 304 7000, is open from 4.30pm to 10.30pm, offering emotional support and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including family, friends and carers.
Q. SANE also provides a Textcare service, which we think is a great example of how technology can actually help with mental illness. How has textcare helped people?
Textcare offers personalised messages to help support and connect people at times when they feel particularly isolated or vulnerable. It is amazing how a simple text can help lift someone who may be struggling. People have told us that: “Textcare has been an amazing help in my hardest times,” and “your texts have gotten me through the most horrible of weeks”. Visit www.sane.org.uk/what_we_do/support/textcare/ to sign-up to Textcare.
Q. What advice would give to anyone reading this who might need some help?
Speaking to somebody can often be half the battle. Keep persisting and do not feel deterred if the first person you approach doesn’t give you the most reassuring response.
You can talk through anything you might be worried about with SANEline. It doesn’t need to be a concern about your own mental health – it could be a concern you have about somebody else’s mental health. We can point you in the right direction for services in your area. And once again, if you have been experiencing symptoms that are interfering with your daily life for more than a few weeks, then you should consider seeing your GP.