The impact of social media on young people's mental health

According to the national charity Papyrus (2018), children as young as 9 years old are contacting helplines to discuss suicidal thoughts as a result of online bullying. Between 30% to 40% of 11-18-year olds are contacting the helpline 'hopeline' as they feel there is no escape.

Social media is like a double-edged sword.

On one side, it allows us to gain insight into the lives of others, it provides a connection to the outside world through the means of being able to contact our social network with the touch of a button.

This can be positive if channelled appropriately. For example, using social media in the safety of one's home and restricting access to data and time on social media. Educating children on the positives and negatives of social media as well as parents and guardians is very important.

There needs to be a positive balance between connection and social interaction and the overlap into overindulgence of social media becoming an obsession whereby children view it as a measure of internal self-worth.

For me, I believe with the rising rates of self harm amongst young adolescents linked to social media use, that social media has a far more sinister side.

Social media can be a platform by which the most insecure of society target and exploit the most vulnerable for their own sense of self-worth, often hiding behind a persona which they have been able to create.

There is much evidence to support the damaging effects social media has on the wellbeing of young people.

Emotionally, children and young people make themselves extremely vulnerable by divulging openly personal thoughts and feelings which is used to channel their innermost deepest emotions.

Social media can portray a false sense of security, particularly regarding the self-worth and happiness of the young population where they perceive the need to fit into a public mould for social acceptance and intrinsic validation. Which is ultimately the feeling of being accepted by the world around us.

The truth is that self worth is internal and NOT external. Recognising our own qualities and attributes is key.

I believe we shouldn't measure ourselves on what we look like, how many likes our Facebook status or most recent selfie on Instagram receives, but on what we think of ourselves.

I believe we are ALL born with unique inner qualities, such as care, kindness, honesty, creativity, intelligence, being good at sports, drama or languages...the list goes on.

However, I think that by using our own inner unique set of qualities which we can find by truly examining ourselves and what we have strengths in, that this will align us with our own purpose.

As young people develop this insight and understanding into themselves, they will develop a more robust emotional foundation of who they truly are and develop inner passion regarding who they want to become rather than becoming dependant on modelling themselves on the latest celebrity who equally probably shares the same insecurities and low self esteem as they do, which can only ever provide a fluctuating unstable sense of self.

Mary is a Registered General Nurse and Registered Mental Health Nurse. She has worked in a variety of specialities and has personal experience of mental health issues. Mary's main passion is raising mental health awareness and working in suicide prevention.

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