Should Young People Use The Internet To Tackle Their Mental Health Issues?

Maddy White
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Heavy use of the internet is a phenomenon unique to the current generation of young people. Can it help them deal with mental health issues or does it pose a real threat?

Research by the Mental Health Foundation claims that 60% of millennials have felt so stressed by the pressure to succeed they have felt unable to cope. More of these young people are turning to online sites and mindful apps to deal with these mental health related problems, but does this really provide a long-term solution?

Those looking to relieve their mental health issues online also face the irony that the internet could have been a catalyst to creating them.

The internet can provide helpful forums for young people, but it can still pose risks for vulnerable users. Photo by Jay Wennington

Internal struggle

“The internet is an entirely new phenomena which has both negative and positive impacts on mental health, with other factors involved. For example, whether you are using the internet in a healthy or unhealthy way, there are risks but there can be benefits.” Deputy chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, Andy Bell told The Versed.

A survey conducted last year by RSPH reported that social media has increased mental health issues for young people, identifying Instagram as the worst offender. It measured 14 health and wellbeing related issues including; anxiety, depression and body image.

“Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues,” Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of RSPH said.

The report recommended that social media platforms should highlight when photos of people have been digitally altered, which more than two-thirds of young people supported. It also advised that social media companies should work to identify users who might be suffering from mental health problems by their posts, shares and engagements, it would then signpost discreetly toward support networks.

Bell added: “Some issues include seeing images, particularly body images for young women and young men. Then there is bullying although recent research suggests cyberbullying is less common than we initially thought.”

The internet could pose as a risk for young people searching for help with mental illnesses. Photo by Jacky Chiu

Unparalleled connection

Whilst the internet and social media is detrimental to the mental health of young people, it too offers online networks for sufferers, which could prove helpful. Bell continued: “There is certainly positive support in social networks, particularly for marginalised groups.”

Alongside positive online networks, a number of apps are being created to try and improve anxiety, loneliness and millennial’s depression. Apps like SuperBetter, Breathe2Relax and Remente offer goal-setting and life coaching. But are they okay to use for sufferers of Mental Health?

“The answer is probably. There is a lot of online help through various forums, lots of things but we need quality control. The apps and websites need to be accredited and safe. They need to be being run by qualified individuals who know what they are doing,” Bell added.

One user’s review of Remente said: “With Remente, I’m recovering from four years of sick leave, towards a more balanced life. This app is for everyone that wants more balance in life, gain self-awareness, or feel more joy. Thank you. This means everything.”

More young people are looking via the web for solutions to their mental health problems, but can this offer legitimate support? Online resources and apps like Remente are being used to help organise, offer advice and distract individuals from their issues, but as Bell stressed they need to be regulated properly.

Young people are spending more time on the internet and this is acting as a catalyst to mental health problems like, depression, anxiety and body image issues. The internet could offer some respite and support networks from burgeoning mental health problems, but with 60% of young people too stressed to cope, no organisation app or online chat service can offer a true solution.

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