Depression, suicidal thoughts, and mental distress appear to be on the rise among American teenagers and young adults, and a new study points to their use of social media as a cause. According to the study’s lead author,
Alexandra Valoras was a high school student who earned straight As and participated in extracurricular school activities like robotics and pastimes like snowboarding. On the outside, her future looked bright. But inside, Alexandra lived in a world of despair. Her journals revealed profound self-loathing and sadness. She repeatedly expressed a desire to end her own life, reported. Alexandra is far from alone. The suicide rate for American teens her age is at a 40-year high. One reason is the pressure for perfection, with failure being viewed as catastrophic. “I don’t want this notebook to end, I love it more than myself (?) I need a place where there is no need for me to be perfect,” Alexandra wrote in one entry. “We have a culture that makes kids think that if they’re not perfect, they’re less than good,” said Scott White, a counselor at Alexandra’s high school. Not every person can reach them.” On March 18, 2018, Alexandra wrote her last entry. “What I will miss by dying tonight. The possibility of anything getting better.” She then tidied up her room, walked to an overpass, and jumped. She was 17 years old. Her parents, Dean and Alysia Valoras, shared their daughter’s journals with the hope of helping others. “The hurt, the sadness is evolving,” Mr. Valoras said in the report. “And now there is this thing called living, so that I am a good father, a good husband, a good person.” .
For college students, accessing mental health services can be a challenge – especially when cost is an issue. In an effort to address that problem Loyola University in New Orleans recently opened a clinic for low-income students in need of psychiatric services. The clinic, opened in February, hopes to serve about 50 patients each week and is open to students and community members. “I’m really stoked about working with this demographic. It’s a population that doesn’t make a lot of money. So you can go to this clinic, pay a small co-pay, and not have to rely on having health insurance,” said Sarah Zoghbi of the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic & Assistance Foundation, one of the organizations providing support to the clinic. The clinic aims to address the gap in mental health services for the underinsured and uninsured in the area. And it’s sorely needed. Louisiana ranks 38th among the states for lower rates of access to care and higher prevalence of mental illness, according to the. About 599,000 adults in Louisiana, about 17% of the population, have a mental illness. “It is our sincere hope to fill a gap in the community by providing high-quality services for those in need,” said the clinic’s director . “No one will be turned away for lack of funds.” .
More and more video games are “tackling mental health issues,” Laura Parker wrote in the New York Times. “Mental health is becoming a more central narrative in our culture with efforts to normalize mental health challenges,” according to Eve Crevoshay, of, a group that seeks to destigmatize mental illness within the video game industry. “With that trend comes response from creative industries, including games.” One of the games that Ms. Parker mentioned, called , is expected to publish this year. Another, called , examines depression and anxiety through a protagonist who tries to avoid obstacles. And yet another, called focuses on a warrior who deals with psychosis. , a psychotherapist who works as clinical director for Take This, said video games can be more effective at helping people bounce back “from negative moods than passive forms of media like TV or movies.” Take This provides resources, guidelines, and training about mental health on its website. .
General offers of help to families in crisis are fine but might not get acted upon. It is better to offer something specific, and “the more specific, the better,” wrote Andrea Paterson in the Washington Post. “Not ‘Can I bring dinner sometime?’ Instead, something like, ‘I’d like to come over on Thursday and bring turkey chili.’ Ms. Paterson wrote that she came to that conclusion after her husband was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic lung cancer in 2013. His death 4½ years later plunged Ms. Paterson and her sons “into crisis,” she wrote. Her tight network of friends and neighbors helped her cope, she said, and their concrete offers of help kept the family going. Such offers need not be earth shattering or monumental, she said. One of her “all-time favorites” was delightfully simple: “ ‘I’m having a cup of tea, watching Audrey learn to roller skate in the driveway. Come join me.’ Needless to say, I joined her.” Ms. Paterson shared several other specifics that might help families in crisis, such as getting a friend to set up a support network of helpers who can pick up prescriptions, meet repairmen, and so on. “Remember that what you offer doesn’t need to be expensive or extravagant,” Ms. Paterson wrote. “ ‘Tomorrow night we are watching the Super Bowl: Join us for tacos and ice cream.’ After all, no one can be in a crisis 24/7.”.