I’ve seen a lot of posts during the past week about mental health and depression. This is all related to a couple of stories which came out in which two female students committed suicide in a span of one week. One was reported to have killed herself because of a break up with a boyfriend while the cause of other girl can’t be confirmed. But from what has been reported, it seems she was having mental breakdowns before eventually ending her life.
Now I’m not a doctor or anything but I want to look at the problem of mental issues from a technology angle.
By just doing casual observation, I can’t help but notice our society at large is becoming more “disconnected” even though smartphones and social networks are seemingly helping us become more connected. The signs of needing help are there, but are we really paying attention?
There’s Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and let’s add WhatsApp since they recently updated to that awful feature where you can now add videos and pictures to your status updates.
But are all these social networks really making us pay attention to each other? Or have they become a glorified self-indulgent way to get “likes” and “favorites”, neglecting the real issues we’re facing?
Get Off Your Phone And “Talk”
Go to any social gathering and watch as people whip out their phones after 5 minutes of talking to another human being.
For someone like me who’s an introvert, going out to a social gathering in the first place is exhausting. But when I do, I do try to interact with people. Believe it or not, I like conversations. Especially the one on one conversations. I like asking people about their life stories because people can be fascinating sometimes.
But now that everyone seems addicted to their phones, how can you read someone?
Being addicted to smartphones has also made it worse for people who suffer depression and anxiety. It can be depressing when you scroll through other people’s pictures on Instagram and Snapchat and see them having a good time while you, on the other hand, are miserable and lonely.
Sometimes you need to get off the internet. But it can be hard.
When’s the last time you texted your friend and asked them “What’s up?” When’s the last time you made a phone to someone out of the blue to find out what they’re up to?
I’m not talking about the small talk stuff. I’m talking about asking what’s going on in their lives. Asking them what’s going on with their jobs, boyfriends/girlfriends/marriage, how is the economy affecting their lives, what do they do, do they want to have lunch etc…
I once asked a friend of mine why she doesn’t call or text me once in a while to check up on me.
“I just check your social media stuff. That’s how I check up on you,” she said.
That’s where we are right now. We’ve seemingly become passive, not active when it comes to communicating. “Liking” a comment or “favoriting” a tweet is not communication. It’s lazy. It doesn’t take effort to just check up once in a while. I try to do that as much as I can. I’m not as active as I should be but I’m trying.
The Internet Is Not Really Your Friend
The internet sometimes becomes a default place when you need help. I for one always get inspired when I go to Reddit.com and go to certain subreddits where people tell their personal stories of how they overcame their problems and still go through daily struggles.
But when you’re just one of the thousand people who comment or tweet your feelings, how do you stand out? When you ask for help, are people actually listening to you?
I’ve been in situations where my mood was low and I used my social networks as an outlet to say how I’m feeling.
I never get responses. No phone calls came in asking how I was doing. Nobody bothering to write, “Are you OK?”
It’s something that I’ve learned over the years. People are passive. I know that now.
If you do every see someone who is expressing themselves about being down and you know that person, it wouldn’t hurt to physically connect with them. A phone call can do so much better than a retweet. Believe me, getting a phone call out of the blue from an old friend can do wonders for your spirit.
Something that lacks in Ghana is social resources to call upon to help when you’re struggling mentally. Where’s the contact number for a therapist? What about counseling services?
There’s an interesting article about “Purple People“, a group where they discuss mental health and mental struggles. That’s a place where you can go. They have a Facebook page that you could try and connect with.
With the internet, I’m not sure how much hand-holding it can do. You kind of need to disconnect and actually talk to someone. It’s the first step to getting better. The first step is always the hardest.
I don’t have all the answers. All this is words. The best you can do is try to reach out to someone for help. On the other side, if you think you know someone who’s hurting, reach out to them.
At the end of the day, sometimes you have to disconnect, throw away your pride and tell yourself you’re broken and need help.
That’s what I did anyway.