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World Mental Health Day 2018: Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World

World Mental Health day was created by The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) as a national awareness day, focused on increasing public knowledge of mental health issues. Every year the WFMH chooses a different topic of focus and releases an information pack on the subject to draw attention to the issues, discuss work that has been done to improve support and provide guidance on what work is still left to do.

The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is young people and mental health in a changing world, with a focus on people aged between 14 – 28. With all the changes we experience throughout adolescence and young adulthood such as leaving school, changing jobs and often gaining independence, this can be a challenging and stressful time for many. It has also been suggested that the increased use of technology in our everyday lives could potentially be creating more problems. Social media use in particular has been linked to mental health issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

Here we have put together some tips on how you can look after your mental health in our changing world:

Switch off from social media

Social media can be highly addictive. Each ‘like’ we receive on a photo or ‘share’ on a post gives us a little high and acts as a positive reinforcement, making us want to do it more and more. The constant stream of new information on our newsfeeds is also an effortless boredom reliever. How many times do you pick your phone up during the day and open a social app just to aimlessly scroll through, without even realising? If you find yourself doing this multiple times a day it may be time to limit your social media use. Set yourself a time limit: 10 minutes on your lunch break, or a time of day: in the evenings once you’ve completed your to-do list, and stick to it. If you access your social channels through apps on your phone, deleting the app and accessing the site by going onto your browser can be a great way to break the cycle of browsing without thinking about it.

Make bedtime a no screen zone

Many of us are guilty of scrolling social media sites or surfing the web after we get into bed until we feel ready to drop off however, this could be negatively impacting the quality of your sleep. The light from your phone or tablet screen confuses your brain, altering the chemicals it normally produces at bedtime, making it much harder to drop off and messing with your sleep cycles. Try to stop using any device with a lit screen at least one hour before bedtime.

Take some "you" time

Having instant access to updates on what our friends are up to sounds like it should make us feel more connected than ever. However, it can often have the opposite effect making us feel more isolated and anxious when we are not involved in the social events we see played out on our screens. This is sometimes described as FOMO (fear of missing out) and can lead to feeling pressure to always be out and involved in everything. Spending quality time alone and being able to enjoy our own company is actually incredibly healthy and allows us a chance to recharge, which in turn leads to stronger social development. Find something simple that you enjoy doing by yourself and take some time out to relax.

Don’t compare yourself with other people you see on social media

Scrolling through pages and pages of perfectly posed fitness models and smiling couples on mountain tops can be enough to make us wonder why our lives aren’t like that. There has been a rise in ‘Instagram vs reality’ posts recently showing the difference between what people post on social media and how they appear every day. And while these are often shared in a light-hearted comical way, the message is still incredibly important. The majority of what we see on social media is a filtered and distorted snapshot of people’s lives designed to show them in the best light and not an accurate representation of someone’s life.

There’s no question that technology has changed and in many ways improved, our everyday lives. When used sparingly, social media and the internet in general, can be a fantastic tool for keeping up with friends and family that you don’t get to see very often, sharing things you are proud of or are passionate about and for learning new things. But when it feels like it may be impacting negatively on your emotional wellbeing, it can be beneficial to take a break and reconnect with the real world.

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