BENGALURU: While mental health is still considered a stigma in the country, many adults continue to suffer from various mental health issues and find it difficult to get proper care. But at the same time, there has been an increase in the number of such patients, mainly because of excessive use of social media, doctors point out. 15-year-old Kavya (name changed) from Bengaluru, who spends most of her time on Tumblr, walked into Fortis recently with her self-diagnosis that she is depressed.
She wrote nihilist poetry and had put up many posts on the theme on the website. Doctors from Fortis said, “Once she was encouraged to discuss her thoughts, we found out how she was exposed to such content online. As she started posting similar things, she felt increasingly validated and built her identity around it.” Experts said that for many people, “finding themselves” is a top priority. Whatever gives them the maximum reward and acceptance in the form of likes on various social media platforms, they strive to become that “self”. “In Kavya’s case, she consistently kept portraying herself as mentally ill as that brought her more attention,” they said.
A study by the University of London reveals that mental health problems have seen a six-fold increase among youngsters and children brought up in the age of internet. Shatarupa C., Counselling Psychologist at Fortis Hospital, said, “Social media creates mindless engagement and has consistently made our attention span shorter because there is always something else to look at. It takes a world of patience to even finish one article. Based on what you like, comment and follow, you will be shown more content on similar rewarding lines. The interesting thing we have seen within the clinical setting is that how many young people believe that they have either depression or anxiety.”
According to studies, almost 8% of people in Karnataka need medical attention for mental health. The number of patients walking into clinics is rising and urban areas are the most affected. “Children have been victims of social media and are exposed to bullying, pornography and gaming programs like Blue Whale, Dark Web, etc. These along with various other factors, like peer pressure, lack of social support, marital discord in parents, nuclear families and substance abuse affect the mental health of a youngster,” said Dr Shobha Krishna, Consultant Psychiatrist at Apollo Hospitals.
Dr Bhupendra Chaudhry, Consultant Psychiatrist, Manipal Hospitals, too said that the internet has had an adverse effect on one’s health, including sleep, food and studies. "Social activities and family interaction also get affected. Parents are advised to monitor online activities of teenagers and keep a healthy relationship with them. Frequent enquiries on their lives and a check on their behavioural change, if any, is also suggested,” he said. While everyone is aware of such implications, the rapidly rising numbers are a cause of concern and must be watched out for.