Reports are showing anxiety, depression and suicide are increasing on college campuses across the nation. As I head into another speaking engagement sharing my family’s story of the shame and stigma we faced with our daughter’s mental illness, I wonder what more can we be doing to help mitigate this mental health crisis?
I recently watched the movie The Social Dilemma on Netflix days before former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, courageously testified in front of the senate on the negative impact the social media giant was having on young people in our world. Released in 2020, The Social Dilemma intelligently outlines how social media platforms use sophisticated algorithms to accurately predict user behavior and purchase. While the system helps direct the most relevant content to users of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google, etc., it also provides a phenomenal return on investment for advertisers competing to get their share of consumer dollars.
To me, it’s easy to understand why our youth and young adults struggle to maintain confidence and balance. I mean, on the daily while I scroll through Instagram, I am inundated with reminders of how I’m not enough because of my aging face and body. As an educated, experienced and centered woman, those damn ads still can get to me and peak my body image triggers. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like when I was struggling with an eating disorder and mental health challenges as a teen and young adult.
So, what can be done? I’ve learned over the years that one of the best antidotes to shame and insecurities is to lean in and talk about it. As an adult, it has become easier with practice over time and I have found the more I’m vulnerable and share myself, the more people open up to me. However, it’s not as easy for youth and young adults (or some adults!) and they could use some guidance and support.
Below are some ways to help youth talk about their struggles with social media and life:
- Ask them how social media makes them feel. What kind of ads pop up when they’re scrolling? What posts from friends or advertisers hit them negatively in the gut? Which ones make them happy?
- Ask if they talk about how social media impacts them with friends? If not, encourage them to ask others’ opinions. Hearing that other kids struggle with social media and may feel the same can go a long way in easing fears and boosting self-esteem.
- Ask what they do to help decrease the impact of social media on themselves.
- Suggest some ideas: block toxic people and/or advertisements; take a break from it; follow profiles that make them happy or feel good (like animals, outdoors, etc.), listen to music, exercise, take a bath, make art, get a pedicure… the list goes on.
Finally, The Lemonade Project, in collaboration with Grace & Kindness Foundation, has a teen program called Champions of Change which works with schools or youth programs to facilitate teen discussion about mental health, their perceived contributors to increased suicide, depression and anxiety, their recommended solutions, and tangible ways to address it among their school or group immediately. Depending on the group goals, the program is 8-12 weeks with in-session collaboration for an hour each week. In the spring, we tie Champions of Change with Run With Grace, which is an event that commemorates the life of Grace Holt, who lost her battle to suicide at the age of 15.
It’s so easy to get started with Champions of Change! CONTACT US on our website form, or connect with Andrea personally to learn more at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-944-2591.