SOCIAL media is adding to a rise in mental health issues claims a south Warwickshire doctor.
Dr Jeff Foster says mental health issues were being exacerbated by the use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and the constant desire to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.
“We live in a virtual, media-driven world where we are told you if you have talent and you really want it, you can be successful and you should always be happy. It’s as if everyone is being told they can win the X-Factor,” said Dr Foster of Leamington-based TFJ Private GP Services.
“This situation can be made much worse when we’re regularly seeing picture-perfect representations of people’s lives on social media and feel under pressure to replicate this ourselves.
“Because of this, it’s so important to keep talking about mental health issues and broadening the discussion as far as we can beyond simply prescribing medicines.
“There are a variety of different methods which can be used to treat mental health issues, such as increased exercise, relaxation and medication techniques and counselling. It’s important to take adequate time to discuss things with your GP and work out what is the best treatment for you.”
Simon Gilby, chief executive of Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, which provide specialist mental health services in the area, wants to see more research into the impact of social media on people’s mental health.
He said: “There are many studies showing a link between the use of social media and other online resources and people’s mental health. I think it is still an area for more research as those links are not fully understood.
“I recognise the many positive aspects of social media, but we do see examples of where it impacts negatively on the lives of people accessing our services, and their families.”
Dr Bernadka Dubicka, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told us it was a case of striking a balance.
He said: “I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness.
“There’s a pressure for young people to be involved 24/7 and to keep up with their peer group online, or they will be left out and socially excluded.
“But we must remember that social media also has its benefits, particularly in its ability to provide young people with a platform from which to build networks and keep connected.
“We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media – good and bad – to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world.”