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Mental health and the challenges of modern society





CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness which could be distressing to some readers.



Last week I was addressed a question regarding the stunning outer space images released by the James-Webb telescope:

Should we as a population be exploring more of space and other planets, or should we focus our efforts on fixing our planet before we venture into space?

I answered with no hesitation that we should focus on fixing our planet. I already had my arguments in mind, from the climate change issues to poverty, to the problem of having limited resources or civil rights and discrimination.

On second thought, I realised there's more than that; fixing our planet also includes "fixing" ourselves as humans.


Mental health has been a central topic in the last few decades, and millions of people are experiencing mental health conditions daily. Although there is an increased level of awareness around the world, so are the cases of people suffering in silence.


The main factors influencing mental health include:


Covid-19 pandemic


The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a global mental health crisis, increasing both short-and long-term stress and jeopardising the mental health of millions. The rise in unemployment, social isolation, inequalities, loss of coping mechanisms, and reduced access to mental health support represent some of the main stressors impacting mental well-being.

The most recent World Mental Health Report shows that during the first year of the pandemic, there has been a rise of over 25% in anxiety and depressive disorders and "about 1 in 8 people in the world live with a mental disorder".

The lesson that we have learned from the pandemic was that we must commit to giving mental health "an integral part of our general health and well-being".



Social media


Social media platforms have proven to be an effective tool for raising awareness about mental health. People have been inspired to open up to friends and family and share their stories by campaigns like Heads UP, Britain Get Talking, or #thepowerofok.

The fear of missing out, the desire to be accepted by others, and the constant scrolling and comparison only bring us one step closer to hampering our mental well-being.

Yet, many influencers have become change agents by creating mental health awareness content and sharing personal stories. It might not be sufficient for some of us, but it increases access to resources, and it could help you understand better where to seek help or how you could help others.


Stigma


People are being mocked or ignored daily for saying they suffer from anxiety or depression. How often did you hear the phrase "yeah, yeah, nowadays everyone has anxiety or depression"? It happened to me a few days ago whilst I was listening to a podcast, and honestly, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Suppose this type of conversation happens between people that are assumed to have a higher level of education and access to information.

What opportunities are for people from disadvantaged environments? The stereotypes and misconceptions around mental illness create a "double challenge" for the people struggling with mental well-being, and their struggle is real.


What are these factors saying about our society?


Our world is constantly evolving, but is it in the right direction?


The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable we can be as a society and that there is no health without mental health.

The advancement of technology and the rise of social media platforms link with opportunities to connect and increased access to resources. The downside could be represented by the amount of positive and negative information our brains receive. Is our mind equipped with the tools for processing the data, or are we rushing through life?

The challenge becomes bigger when public stigma leads to self-stigma, and we get stuck in a loop.

The increased level of mental health issues could teach us that we need promotion and prevention interventions, but we need more. We need to return to our roots, connect with ourselves, nature, and the people we love, learn to listen more and be kind to ourselves and others.



Mental health is about our society, but it is also about the choices we make. Going back to the question about exploring space or fixing our planet, now you know why I chose our planet.

In an era of "move fast and break things", I choose to learn how to enjoy the slow pace.

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