In our fast-evolving world, where technology and social media seamlessly meld into our lives, discussions about mental well-being have gained new urgency.
September 10th marks World Suicide Prevention Day, a poignant reminder of the need to address these issues head-on. While the digital age offers unparalleled connectivity and learning opportunities, it also presents unique challenges that can profoundly impact our mental health.
This article delves into how the digital era shapes mental well-being and explores strategies to harness its potential while mitigating risks.
Illuminating Insights from Statistics
=The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 700,000 people die by suicide annually, nearly 77% of these occurring in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).
=Insights from the National Mental Health Survey of India reveal that “Every sixth Indian needs mental health help.”
=Research by Patel V, Flisher AJ, Hetrick S, and McGorry P shows that three-quarters of those affected by lifelong mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, experience their first episode before age 24.
The Digital Revolution: A Double-Edged Sword
The digital revolution has transformed how we communicate and interact. Social media platforms connect us, yet the pressure to curate an idealised online image can lead to feelings of inadequacy. The constant influx of curated content fosters anxiety and depression, amplified by the fear of missing out (FOMO).
Challenges in the Digital Era
Cyberbullying and Online Harassment: The cloak of anonymity the internet offers can lead to cyberbullying and harassment, eroding self-esteem and mental well-being. In 2020, India saw 50,035 reported cybercrime cases, including cyberstalking, blackmailing, defamation, fake profiles, and fake news, as per NCRB. Cybercrimes surged by 63.48% (2018 to 2019) and 12.32% in 2020 (NCRB data).
Digital Addiction: The dopamine rush triggered by notifications, likes, and comments can foster digital addiction, leading to isolation and detachment from reality.
Social Comparison and Envy: Comparing our lives to others’ highlights fosters envy and inadequacy, intensified by the digital era’s focus on appearances and achievements. Those with mental health concerns or body image issues are particularly vulnerable to such social comparison, resulting in further body dissatisfaction (Tiggemann, Hayden, Brown & Veldhuis, 2018).
Information Overload: The deluge of information from various sources can be overwhelming, fueling stress and a sense of helplessness as we navigate between credible and misleading information.
Embracing Opportunities for Mental Well-being
Digital Support Networks: Online platforms foster connections through virtual support groups, fostering a sense of belonging.
Mental Health Apps: A surge of apps offers meditation, relaxation, mood tracking, and self-care tools, aiding stress and anxiety management.
Accessible Information: The internet provides mental health information and resources, empowering individuals to educate themselves and seek help.
Raising Awareness: Social media is a powerful tool to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and encourage open conversations about mental health.
Strategies for Mindful Navigation in the Digital Era
Setting Boundaries: Allocate specific times for digital engagement while prioritising offline experiences.
Curating Your Feed: Unfollow accounts that evoke negativity, opting for those promoting positivity and authenticity.
Practising Digital Detox: Regularly disconnect from devices to recalibrate mental well-being and reconnect with the tangible world. Prioritising Authentic Connections: Nurturing real-world relationships beyond virtual interactions fosters a sense of belonging.
Seeking Professional Help: Mental health struggles warrant professional guidance and support, eradicating stigma.
Indian Govt Initiatives For Mental Health
The Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres AB-HWC program provides primary healthcare, including mental health services. From the 2022-23 budget, Tele MANAS offers anonymous mental health support, countering stigma. The Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan also encompasses initiatives for mental well-being.
On World Suicide Prevention Day, we recognize the digital era’s impact on mental well-being. Amid challenges, there’s potential to enhance mental health through mindful digital navigation. This fosters real connections, empathy, and authenticity, upholding well-being for all.
Pritika Singh is the CEO of Prayag Hospitals Group