Mental Health in Digital Times

Mental health is a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.

Mental health includes our emotional frame of mind, our psychological state, and our social well-being. It overall impacts our thinking process and our actions. Mental health issues can begin to affect a person as early as from the age of 14 years through adulthood.

Amongst the main reasons for an increase in mental health problems, the growing addiction on Social Media is becoming a cause for concern. The other factors include:
1. Biological factors: Depression can run in families due to genetic factors leading to the disease.
2. Life situations: Continued hardships, traumatic life events, abuse, work stress cause mental illness.
3. High dependence on Social media: Being a slave to social media has its own disadvantages. It can affect the happiness quotient of a person. Over-dependence on social media effects:-

i) Self-worth: No one is perfect and we know that. Each one of us has hidden insecurities. These insecurities get heightened when, for example, we see images of models and their perfect bodies on Instagram and begin to feel inadequate in comparison. Body image can affect our mental status leading to anxiety and depression.

ii) Human interface: With Social Media, taking up so much of our time and attention, as human beings we are starting to communicate and connect with each other on social media platforms rather than in person. One may have 1000 so called friends on Facebook but not a single person he/she could turn to when needed in real life situations.

iii) Sleep deprivation: Looking into our phones in bed makes it harder to sleep. Going through messages and chatting on WhatsApp late into the night, not knowing when to stop can affect sleep cycles. Lack of sleep causes insomnia and sleep disorders which in turn can affect your psychological and mental health.

iv) Concentration: Not being able to concentrate is a psychological condition known as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In a study conducted in July 2018, by Cleveland Clinic, on high school students, it was found that spending too much time on digital media led to hyperactivity amongst students. They had shorter spans of attention and found it difficult to organize and complete a task.

But on the brighter side, Digital Media has advantages and plays an important role in addressing mental health issues.

With doctors and patients becoming internet savvy and with the increase in online search on health and well-being, the medical advertising agency saw the need for digital marketing for doctors as well as digital marketing for hospitals to connect with their patients online. Specialized healthcare digital marketing agency like Digital Saline, offers niche digital marketing for doctors, hospitals and healthcare startups adopting a digital-first marketing strategy for doctors to get a step closer to potential patients in the online space.

Most doctors, clinics and hospitals today rely on online medical marketing and healthcare marketing as a tool of modern medication. Every medical practitioner is seeking the best healthcare marketing agency on how to construct a medical website and to get exposure on Social Media platforms that can boost not only their medical practice but also bring them a step closer to patient interaction by building a sense of trust. For doctors to stay relevant and patient-centric in todays digital era, it is imperative that,
1. They project their service/field of specialty through a website
2. They use SEO techniques to develop a content strategy based on specific keywords used by patients for their searches, in order to get more traffic.
3. They use blogs to publish information on diseases, their symptoms, the cure etc
4. They have a presence in online communities, hashtag campaigns and discussion forums to reach their audience through Social Media.
5. They stay in the competition amongst peers whilst being abreast with latest research and development in their area of specialty.
6. Doctors make use of latest digital therapies or digital apps for mental health conditions related to depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Social Media is becoming a tool for doctors and healthcare professionals to offer help and treatment to mental health patients. Engaging with patients on social media maybe the first step to reach out to those suffering with anxiety and depression, which they do not want to discuss with family, friends or even a specialist over a counseling session. A patient can talk over helplines of websites in full privacy from the comfort of his own home.

The main reasons why mental health patients seek assistance online are: -
1. Most mental health related websites have doctors/counselors who offer free service or at a very low sign up fee.
2. Can express their feelings to outsiders when they are uncertain of sharing their insecurities with loved ones.
3. They can discuss coping tactics with others who may have faced similar problems
4. They can remotely access doctors without going to a clinic especially if they are away from major cities, which are equipped with hospitals having psychiatric wards or professional counselors/psychiatrists.
5. Online therapy allows patients to seek help without anyone judging them
6. Online chats are often available 24x7. Whether middle of the day or middle of the night, the person going through any mood disorder can simply log in and begin to chat which provides an interim relief by being heard.
7. It is as much convenience care as healthcare, since the mental health patient is requesting for assistance at his/her own convenience, at his/her own terms without being judged on their mental well being.
8. Can watch live streaming of videos, which not only holds their attention longer but also helps to impact their thought process. A positive video/live streaming helps inject confidence/moral/positive thoughts immediately.

Though Social Media may not always be the most secure forum or the most legitimate forum, it is more often than not the first link between a medical practitioner and a mental health patient. A few small steps taken by NGO’s online platforms, towards people suffering depression can, in the long run, save a lot of lives. Doctors, online counselors and listeners patiently guide the person through his/her mental problem addressing those concerns over time and with care, leading them finally to also seek help and medication offline.

In India, in most families, mental health is unnoticed or even ignored and often not discussed until such time that it escalates to severe depression. Parental conditioning like, ‘Boys don’t cry’ and ‘Be strong’ might result in anxiety built up and pent up emotions affecting one’s mental state of mind over the years.

In the most recent studies done by researchers from the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK have found evidence that the more the number of incidents of depression people experience in their adulthood, the higher is the risk of cognitive impairment they have later in life.

To conclude, mental health patients not only require Social Media interactions with medical practitioners, doctors, therapists but also need to indoctrinate the below for wellness:
1. Healthy relationships with family and friends
2. Regular physical exercise
3. Practicing meditation to lower any anxiety
4. Coping with and handling stress
6. Having full faith in oneself

Websites, Facebook and Instagram can be used effectively to address the growing concerns of mental health. World Mental Health Day (October 10) uses online platforms to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world.

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