Digital transformation is essential to support the mental health of young patients

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently issued recommendations on growing evidence that social media adversely affects the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.

Bob Booth, Chief Care Officer, TimelyCare (Photo: TimelyCare)

The recommendation cites a number of studies that link excessive social media exposure to a doubled risk of experiencing adverse mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

But these wildly popular apps are just one of many mental health risks Marcy warns. Children, adolescents and college students face daily pressures such as relationships, academics, athletic performance, bullying and even basic needs. Young people and adolescents are more exposed to larger social problems such as mass shootings, global conflicts, and economic instability as they age, and their mental health can also deteriorate.

A combination of these factors is likely why more than three-quarters (77%) of college students we surveyed in May reported having a friend experiencing a mental health problem or problem. It is possible.

Young people constantly experience depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other related symptoms. But given that Gen Z most likely got their first smartphone at the age of 10, what the previous generation didn’t have at the time was smartphones and the internet. The near-universal ownership and use of these devices has made young people inseparable from their objects. It evokes unpleasant emotions and encourages potentially harmful behaviors.

In many cases, this means that managing Gen Z’s mental health and well-being should begin with digital tools that provide age-appropriate content and activities wherever they are.

Digital natives need digital-first care

Evidence-based mental health screening is the first step and should start early depending on behaviors observed by parents, educators, coaches and other adults in the young person’s life.

In 2022, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force will recommend that adolescents ages 12 to 18 be tested for major depressive disorder and patients ages 8 to 18 to be tested for anxiety, even if they do not have symptoms. We reaffirmed our previous recommendation to test. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has taken the task force’s recommendations one step further, calling for universal screening for suicide risk beginning at age 12.

Initial screening and follow-up mental health visits can be conducted online, according to the AAP’s parent website. According to the AAP, visits with virtual care may “relieve the discomfort some children and teens may feel when talking about mental health issues,” and such sessions are not recommended. “Pediatricians are noticing that children are more open about what bothers them,” it said. ”

One size does not fit all

One of the greatest benefits of virtual care is being able to meet young patients where they are, with the level of involvement and support they seek in a safe and comfortable environment.

For example, many digital natives are attracted to self-directed, evidence-based mental health care and wellness options available online, such as interactive self-care exercises, video, audio, or text-driven therapies. I’m here. Progress at your own pace in your own space.

Other Gen Z members may prefer to engage in anonymous peer-to-peer support within personalized mental health platforms. There, you can connect with others facing similar challenges and remove the stigma around seeking mental health care.

For those interested in formal counseling with a licensed mental health provider, Virtual Care provides a convenient option for confidential, one-on-one support from a professional who is empathetic to their needs. Whether you are seeking a traditional one-hour, one-on-one counseling session with a therapist, or seeking on-demand emotional support, virtual care is not always available in all communities and We provide accessibility, availability, and versatility that aren’t available without long wait times.

For young patients receptive to one-on-one counseling, therapist selection can be critical. Mental health clinicians with similar backgrounds, language, race/ethnicity, and other familiar traits found that adolescents and young adults overcome inhibitions more quickly and developed the trust that is essential for effective therapeutic relationships. help build.

Regardless of the method of care, as clinicians, parents, educators, coaches, and other adults who work with young people, it is our duty to normalize mental health support and foster a culture of care that includes reducing stigma. .

Just like physical health, managing mental health and well-being is a lifelong commitment. Bringing children and adolescents to this insight early in life can help build skills that will keep them healthy and resilient to challenges now and in the years to come.

About the author

Bob Booth, MD, is Chief Care Officer at TimelyCare, a virtual health care provider.

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