To the Editor:
We have a crisis today regarding our young people and their mental health, and it is manifesting itself in terrible ways. Whether it's an increase in anxiety and depression, or thoughts of suicides followed by actual attempts, our young people are struggling right now with the social pressures being thrown at them.
If you have any doubt just how much are young people are struggling with mental health issues, allow me to highlight a few points. Recent statistics from The Journal of Pediatrics indicate that between 2010 and 2017, the rate of girls age 10 to 12 who have tried to poison themselves increased 268 percent. In 2018, approximately 60,000 girls aged 10 to 18 tried to poison themselves. And these numbers are solely focused on verifiable attempts at self-harm leading many researchers to believe the number is actually higher. Young girls today are being bombarded with images and false narratives online and in social media that they have to look and act a certain way or else they simply aren't going to be accepted. Adolescent children simply don't have the emotional capacity to deal with the constant pressure being applied on them via social media.
Speaking of social media, it is most certainly a contributing factor why young people today are constantly feeling anxious and depressed. The Atlantic detailed a study showing that eighth graders who spend 10 or more hours per week on social media are 56 percent less happy than those who spend fewer time on social media. In addition, the same study showed that eighth graders who were "heavy users" of social media were at a 27 percent higher risk of depression. Social media has brought the school yard gossip and drama into the homes of children.
Finally, the physical damage that technology, social media and excessive app use can cause also contributes to the rise of mental health issues in our young people. The Mayo Clinic confirms that excessive use of technology and social media is causing sleep disruption and that is negatively impacting young people's mental health. Studies have linked late-night technology use with poor sleep and poor sleep can cause irritability and depression. Dr. Angela Mattke of the Mayo Clinic says, "If they're getting texts and messages that are coming through all night long, that's going to be interrupting their sleep and you're not going to know how late they're up.
Technology and social media are part of life in the 21st century, but their use must be balanced with a child's developmental ability to handle them appropriately. Otherwise, we will continue to see a rise in anxiety, depression and a host of other mental health issues in our young people and the tragic consequences that follow.