Depressed and anxious: The modern tragedy of mental health

We are often scared of that which we do not understand. Mental health isn’t something to be scared or ashamed of; we should seek to understand and embrace it.

Writer: Isabelle Yuen
Editor: Simi Ayeniyegbe
Artist: Wenanlan Jin

Ask anyone you know what they think about first aid, and chances are they will nod in approval and murmur with agreement. Over the years, you learn life-saving tips about first aid – how to check for a pulse, performing CPR to the beat of ‘Staying Alive’ by the Bee Gees, learning to do the Heimlich manoeuvre. Everyone can agree on how crucial it is to have knowledge of such aid, as well as the wisdom on how to apply it when situations call for its use.

Well, this is not much different to mental health first aid. Yet, so few people are aware of the dangers of leaving mental health problems untreated; they have yet to understand that the use of mental health first aid has an equally important place in today’s modern society as physical first aid does. 

Anxiety in youths: what’s changed?

In this era, where anything less than a fast-paced hustle is frowned upon and dismissed with disdain, the toll that continued societal stresses and pressures have on people have not gone unnoticed. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately a third of adolescents aged between 13 and 18 will experience an anxiety disorder, with the numbers rising steadily since 2007, anxiety disorders in youths having increased by almost 20%.

What’s changed since then?

Societal pressures and social media

Whether it be in terms of academic performance or achieving financial independence, society is pushing youths to their breaking point. They impose unrealistically high expectations on students, from standardized testing in schools, to the not-so-subtle culture of achievement, until it no longer becomes possible to be working at one’s own pace without being viewed as stagnant and ‘lazy’. (really long sentence…)

Additionally, the newfound wonder of social media in this digital age, has further worsened the situation. Now, the push of a button can unleash a monstrous tidal wave of people shoving news and photos of their various shining accomplishments and successful endeavours down our unwilling, consumerist throats. Unsurprisingly, this has perpetuated a culture of competition, with more and more individuals, especially teenagers and youths, equating the quantity and grandeur of their achievements (be it academic, social or physical) to their self-worth, no thanks to social media for providing a perfect broadcasting platform.

What can we do to help?

Of course, it would be incredibly idealistic to believe that we can fix an entire society’s ingrained culture overnight. What we CAN do, is to start the conversation. Mental health is often considered a taboo topic, especially in eastern cultures. Therefore, there is a lack of attention and understanding about it, which complicates matters, since it is difficult to tackle a problem when people often don’t even realise that it is a problem. You don’t need to be a trained professional or a certified clinical psychologist to help someone in need; a mental health first aider is someone who can listen calmly to their fears, give them simple information about mental health, and guide them in the right direction to seek appropriate help. With a little compassion and empathy, we can all do our part to make this world a little safer.

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