Mental Health Awareness...a subtle 'un-awareness'
We’re at that time of year again when social media, and the media in general, bring to the forefront the awareness surrounding mental health and conditions such as depression. And bringing this awareness out is fantastic! With the extremely high rates of depression, anxiety and other unhealthy mental states (conditions that are so often ignored) bringing about the awareness of how prominent they are is one of the steps in helping people feel comfortable in reaching out for help. This year it did get me thinking about something though. It got me to think about some of the influences that are in everyone's face every day. One of the more obvious ones, and one that I have posted about on my Facebook page in the past, is social media. Social media, especially among teens and pre-teens, can have a dramatic effect on the mental wellbeing of people. But a more subtle one that not always comes to mind is the media.
About two years ago I stopped watching the news on TV. I used to always watch The National with Peter Mansbridge, and looked forward to it. But you know what? I think I actually feel better, feel I’m in a better mental and/or emotional place, having not been exposed to local and global news stories. Sure I’m still exposed to ‘the news’ through social media to an extent, or just by being online, but it seems different than watching the news every evening on television. I think ‘news’ sells based on a few negative emotions, the most prominent I think being fear and anger. If something sparks outrage or fear in an individual they seem to be glued to the set. You see very few ‘feel good’ stories on the nightly news. Some, but very few. And ultimately I think this purveying of negativity in a continuous stream of images and comments erodes the public’s sense of wellbeing and ultimately brings people down emotionally. It puts people into a negative frame of mind. So you inundate someone that has the beginnings of depression with night after night of negativity, be it accidents, wars, murders, political dissonance, financial stress, catastrophes. Don’t you think that could push someone who is susceptible into a depressed state? Of course it could. I’ve told some patients to stop watching the news, or at least take a break from watching for a little while, and guess what? Their mood shifts for the better. I think the last thing you want someone with depression to be exposed to, or someone who is in a situation in which developing depression is a possibility, is an onslaught of negative images and words.
I would challenge everyone to take, at the very least, a news ‘holiday’ for one or two weeks. Watch something that makes you smile or that makes you feel good. Comedies, nature programs, adventure, travel. Anything but the news. Don’t worry, the world will still go on and you can catch up if you want to later. You might find, though, that knowing everything that is going on in the world isn’t really something that is necessary to live your life, especially in a positive way. You might feel better. I honestly haven’t missed it. I think Gary Gnu said it best long ago (I’m again dating myself a little here)… “No Gnews is good Gnews”.
Yours in health,
Dr. Jeff Appelmann, BSc, ND