World Mental Health Day is celebrated annually on 10 October to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world, a commemoration initiated by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) and celebrated in more than 100 countries.
As WFMH President Nasser Loza warns, “discrimination, harmful stereotypes and stigma in the community, family, schools and workplace impede the healthy relationships, social interactions and inclusive environments necessary for the well-being of all members of society.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on mental health, especially in certain occupational sectors (such as health care workers and other frontline occupational profiles), people living alone or those with pre-existing mental health conditions.
Technology, social media and mental health
When asked whether social networks can have a negative influence on the mental health of adolescents, the expert in digital literacy and citizenship María Zabala explains that if an adolescent is generally well, they will not be worse off because of their presence on social networks, although if they are at a vulnerable moment, it can have a negative influence. For this reason, she stresses the importance of communication between parents and children in order to really get to know them.
In this way, she advocates normalising the digital technology that surrounds us by incorporating it into our family life and the education given to children as a formula for establishing healthy relationships in the digital era.
Zabala does recognise that mobiles and social networks can be accomplices (but not guilty) in a worsening of the mental health of our young people, since the very high volume of content they consume can (with nuances and for different reasons) affect their self-perception, their vision of the world and their sense of well-being or discomfort.
However, the expert points out that it is particularly problematic that mobile phones and networks arrive too early without any kind of control or accompaniment.
Child and adolescent mental health in the aftermath of the pandemic
As with the adult population, concern about mental health in children and adolescents has also increased following the pandemic, an issue that health authorities have warned about.
In fact, the Spanish Association of Paediatrics estimates that there has been an increase of up to 47% in mental health disorders in children and according to data from Save the Children, 3% of Spanish children claimed to have had suicidal thoughts in 2021.
Thus, spending more time at home due to confinement, the transfer of many of our activities to the virtual world and the fact that part of our children’s social life is now located in 2.0 networks and environments, has also conditioned not only their way of relating but also their mental health.