From Hashtag to rehab

02 Oct 2018

If you are in your teens and own a Smartphone chances are you have a mental disorder. The difference may be in the degree. Cell phones and smart phones in particular, have an undeniably addictive quality, which has earned them an entry in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 5th edition. A review of literature on cell phone addiction, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, describes cell phone and technology addiction manifesting in one or more of the following ways: choosing to use your device even in "dangerous or prohibited contexts;" losing interest in other activities; feeling irritable or uneasy if separated from your phone; or feeling anxiety or loneliness when you’re unable to send or receive an immediate message. The researchers also find that adolescents and women may be more susceptible to this behavioral addiction.

Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University Of Botswana says millennials are facing a mental health crisis “millennials are considered an anxious generation which is often attributed to an obsession with technology, overbearing parents and the stress that comes with trying to fit into a social media-driven world. Often times, talking to anyone about your mental health can be a daunting experience but what young people don’t realize is that their peers could be experiencing similar feelings of anxiety and stress and dealing with them together could prove helpful. Family members could also act as valuable confidantes during difficult times and may be able to provide you with the help you need or may simply offer comfort during a tough time.”

A recent study by S. Karger  and AG, Basel found that in the past few years internet addiction (IA) and internet gaming disorder (IGD) have become very frequent, leading to many personality and psychiatric disorders including low self-esteem, impulsivity, poor sleep quality, mood disorder, and suicide. IA has been included in Appendix III of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as IGD. In addition, IA leads to many neuroanatomical and neurochemical alterations including cortical thinning of various components of the brain and altered dopaminergic reward circuitry. 

Lebogang Molale works as a receptionist at Innolead in Gaborone says mental health issues among young people are at an all time high and parents don’t even know their kids are suffering. “Millennials are often referred to as the “anxious generation.” They were the first to grow up with the constant overflow of the internet and social media. The internet can make life better, but it can also make life complicated, as millennials often compare their personal and professional achievements to everyone else’s, this can result in low self-esteem and insecurity. The world is at millennials’ fingertips, but they also feel its immense weight. Everything is so fast-paced and competitive, part of that is social media .The sense of immediacy—everything has to happen right away, at the click of a button. There's pressure to constantly be 'on.' to look and sound perfect, and act like you have it all together when in actual fact they don’t.

Addiction and mental health go hand in hand. Millennials are accustomed to medicating mental health issues with drugs like marijuana. Most of them believe little risk is involved in using cannabis. In addition the excessive prescription of habit-forming drugs is largely responsible for the current addiction crisis in Botswana; many of these drugs are misused and diverted - used illicitly by people who don’t have prescriptions for them. Another cause of millennial substance abuse is stress; most of them have a tendency to use alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms. Millennials are actually more affected by stress and are more frequently stressed out than other demographic groups. Being so stressed interferes with their decision-making and causes them to act seemingly without consideration of the consequences.