Revealed: The biggest contributor to poor mental health

Do you ever read an article online or (if you’re older than 35) in a magazine or newspaper, and it absolutely stops you in your tracks?

As in, your heart skips a beat, your mouth turns dry, and you can’t help but think: this is an undeniably true fact that I can no longer ignore.

This happened to me this week, when I read this article. The life-altering, razor-sharp sentence that cut me to my core was:


“[We] are reliant on social media, and there may be nothing more externalising or control-lowering than posting a photo of yourself on the internet and waiting for people to judge you.”

Holy mother of everything, right?

I mean, of course we all know that social media is a nasty habit. We know that it promotes FOMO, and encourages envy, and it’s highly addictive.

We even know that social media is a known home-wrecker: in the UK, 33% of all marriage dissolutions contained the word “Facebook”.

But this particular comment is actually referring to children. Author William Stixrud, who co-wrote the book The Self-Driven Child, actually started this phrase with “Kids are”, not “We are”.

And when you think about the impact social media can have – and is having – on our kids, it brings the whole issue into clear focus.

Stixrud confirms that in recent years, “the smartphone and social media have likely contributed enormously to the dramatic increase in mental health problems seen in adolescents”.

I’d argue that the same could be said of many grown adults, who are increasingly reporting mental health issues around depression and anxiety.

“This problem has been increasing since the 1960s, because our culture has increasingly valued extrinsic and self centered goals such as money, status, and physical attractiveness, and devalued community, affiliation, and the pursuit of meaning in life,” Stixrud adds.

So what is the answer? I’m thinking it might be time to move to the back of the Gold Coast hinterland, where phone reception is sketchy and Telstra is still at least five years away from installing Broadband.

In the meantime, the book’s co-author, Ned Johnson, suggests: “Make it your highest priority to simply enjoy your kids. As they are. Right now. Flaws and all. For the development of babies, one of the most important inputs is parents who are warm and responsive. When do you think kids outgrow that need? We think, never.”