Chairman of the Mental Health Commission Dr. Marc Lockhart said on Wednesday (10 October) that the number of people seeking treatment for mental health issues this year has increased by five percent, with the largest increase coming from the 16-and-under age group.
Numerous studies have laid the blame for this firmly at the door of social media platforms.
Research suggests the average social media user spends around two hours per day on networks like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.
40% of the global population – three billion people – are connected via these channels.
But even executives working at Facebook have urged us to take more care with our social media consumption.
Health Minister Hon. Dwayne Seymour said he believes there are both “advantages and disadvantages of the role in social media in mental health.”
“Too much time spent on social media might be harmful, due to issues such as the lack of adequate sleep which affects your mental health,” he said.
Matty Sloane, who has suffered with anxiety and panic issues since his childhood, explained that sleep had affected his ability to deal with his mental health concerns too.
“They feed on each other,” he explained. “I’m not going to get enough sleep… which makes the anxiety worse… which means you can’t sleep… you’re back in that cycle again.”
Here in Cayman, mental health professionals like Dr. Marc Lockhart have seen an increase in those seeking help for such issues.
“The electronic actual mechanisms that they use: iPads, phones, tablets and so on, they emit certain types of light that can affect sleep, [they] can keep kids from getting to bed at a certain time. That can have a lot of different repercussions physically and emotionally and even with their learning and grasping information,” he said.
However, undeniably, social media also connects us to information like never before; the Health Minister said he believes that is a positive.
“Social media increases awareness of the issues and in doing so it reduces stigma and discrimination,” he proffered.
It seems while social media can exacerbate underlying mental health concerns, Cayman’s mental health experts see it as a catalyst rather than a cause.