Meet the tech evangelist who now fears for our mental health

Belinda Parmar was a passionate advocate of the digital revolution but has started keeping her familys smartphones and laptops locked away to protect her loved ones. Is she right to be so worried?

In Belinda Parmars bedroom there is a wardrobe, and inside that wardrobe there is a safe. Inside that safe is not jewellery or cash or personal documents, but devices: mobile phones, a laptop, an iPod, chargers and remote controls. Seven years ago, Parmar was the high priestess of tech empowerment. Founder of the consultancy Lady Geek, she saw it as her mission both to make tech work better for girls and women and to get more girls and women working for tech. Now she wants to talk about the damage it can cause to our mental health, to family life and to children, including her son Jedd, 11, and daughter Rocca, 10.

Parmar made her living and lived her life through these devices, so what happened to make her lock them up? Why did this tech evangelist lose her faith?

Strong women run in Parmars family. She tells me her mother raised her and her sister alone after separating from their father when Parmar was two (shes now 44 and recently separated herself), while her grandmother, who had four children, ran her own business, a recruitment firm in Mile End, east London. She grew up believing anything was possible, which is why she felt driven to start Lady Geek when she was 35, after a man in a phone shop tried to sell her a pink, sparkly phone. That was the way technology was sold and I thought: This is ridiculous. I was so angry that I went home and started a blog, she says.

The blog was called Lady Geek, and it launched a national conversation about sexism in the tech industry. Parmar left her job in advertising to turn it into a business, advising tech companies how to make their products better for women, and going into schools to encourage girls to go into the industry, for which she was awarded an OBE. For me, tech was a leveller, she says. You didnt need money, you didnt need status; it was an enabler of a more equal and more diverse society. This tiny bubble that most of us lived in had been popped and that was wonderful. That still is wonderful.

But certain aspects of her relationship with technology were not so wonderful. Id wake up and look at Twitter, she says. I had two small children, and the first thing I should have been doing was going to see the kids, but Id be looking at Twitter. She realised she was using social media for validation, to feed her ego. She began to think: If technology is an enabler, why am I just using it for things I dont like about myself?

As her children grew up, she started to be disturbed by her sons apparent compulsion to play video games. Technology takes parents out of control. I cant compete with an amazing monster, that level of dopamine. He doesnt want to eat with us, to be with us, because its not as exciting, she says. She bought a Circle, a device that allows you to manage the whole familys internet access, controlling which devices are online at which times and what they can view. My son hid it, she says. She tried to turn the wifi off, but he stood guarding it, blocking her way. She still does not know where the Circle is. In theory, she says, if youve got compliant children, this would be perfect. Perhaps that is why her combination to the safe, with his devices and hers, is 12 digits long.

Safe
Safe keeping … Parmar locks her devices in for the night. Photograph: Teri Pengilley for the Guardian

She has reason to worry. When a friends 12-year-old son showed signs of being addicted to video games, Parmar at first shrugged it off. Then he refused to go to school because he wanted to play all day, and then he spent eight weeks in a psychiatric institution. Hes 15 now. Nothings changed. He still wont go to school, she says.

Professor Mark Griffiths, a psychologist and director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, has spent 30 years studying technological addictions; he was the first to use that phrase in 1995, to describe excessive person-machine relationships. All behaviour is on a continuum from absolutely no problems at all, he says, through to recreationally enjoying something, to excessively enjoying something, to problematic and then addictive and pathological at the far end. For someone to be genuinely addicted to technology, that technology has to be the single most important thing in their life they do it to the neglect of everything else and very few people fulfil that.

He is prolific (helped, he says, by having given up his mobile phone), publishing more than 100 papers last year alone his most recent was on Instagram addiction. But he has his doubters. There are academics wholl say this is complete nonsense, that if it doesnt involve ingestion of a psychoactive substance it cant possibly be an addiction. To that he retorts: what about gambling? What is good for me is the established bodies are catching up, he says. This year, the World Health Organization added gaming disorder to its list of mental health conditions in ICD-11, the International Classification of Diseases.

Griffiths is careful to articulate the difference between believing that technological addictions are real, and believing that they are ubiquitous. Addiction is defined not by the amount of time spent doing the activity, but by the context in which you do it. Parents tend to pathologise behaviour that isnt pathological its the technological generation gap, he says. Every week, concerned parents email him to say their daughter or son is addicted to social media, and when he asks if their children do their homework and chores, take exercise and have a wide network of friends, nearly always the answer is yes. But, they say, the kids are wasting three hours a day online. What were you doing when you were their age? Because I was watching TV for three hours a day when there were only three channels. And then there are the parents who use social media just as much as their kids, and who shouldnt be surprised when kids end up copying exactly what they are doing.

While it may be reassuring that few of us would qualify as addicts by Griffiths definition, the fashion for tech detoxes, and a recent survey that found that 75% of those aged 25 to 34 feel they use their phone too much, suggests many of us remain disturbed by our increasingly entwined relationship with technology. Richard Graham, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who runs the Tech Addiction Service at Londons private Nightingale hospital, tells me: Were psychologically cyborgs now, whether we like it or not. Were integrating these devices into our mental functioning, into our social and emotional lives. He quotes Chief Justice Roberts of the US supreme court: The proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.

While Graham feels the addiction model has its uses, he also draws on other ways of thinking about what is going on when we cant look away from a screen. He tells me about the student who decided to wind down one evening by playing a game of League of Legends, which would take about 40 minutes; the next time he looked at the clock, it was 5.30am. To explore this, Graham turned to flow psychology, a way of understanding the process of getting into the zone around a piece of work, which can be positive but can also make you lose track of space and time. This is not escapism: A lot of gamers are thinking strategically, in a very deep way. He is also interested in the idea of hyperfocus, which some people with ADHD experience, as not so much a problem of not being able to concentrate, but of not being able to shift concentration.

He was influenced, too, by the work of Sherry Turkle, a social psychologist who has been researching the relationship between people and technology for three decades. Some of the participants in her studies, he says, were so attached to their consoles that they even found winning upsetting because it disrupts the connection with the machine. Theres a sense that they keep going because they dont want that connection to be lost. A psychoanalyst might compare this to the unconscious desire to be back in the womb, in a state of absolute connection.

For young people on the brink of or enduring the horrors of adolescence, like Belindas son, Graham feels there could be something else going on: an identity crisis, trying to find a place in the world of near-adults. For these young people, games and social media arent just fun theyre business. Whether they monetise their YouTube channel or not, this is a way to succeed, to harness digital capital and turn it into self-esteem. Griffiths suggests that screens might even be one of the reasons for the drop in youth crime over the past 25 years: More youth are spending more time in front of technology, so they havent got time to go out and commit acquisitive crime. Being very engrossing isnt necessarily bad.

These experts agree that abstinence is not the way forward: instead, we need to build what they call digital resilience, and learn to use technology in a measured, controlled way. If someone goes diving and is deeply immersed in the ocean, Graham says, you cant just bring them up quickly without significant effect. So rather than talking about digital detox, we need to think about digital decompression.

He recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics family media plan, which tells you how much sleep you need, and schedules a period of no-screen time an hour before bed, as well as clean periods in your day and clean zones in your home. I think it can really help if everyone does it together. But adults can be more slippery than young people. Theyll say: I need my phone for work, for my alarm. Unfortunately, with adolescents, anything like that smacks of hypocrisy and is incredibly damaging.

Young people can be responsive when adults change their own behaviour, he says. I had quite a nice discussion with a young man and his mother. She told me she only has a Kindle, and I replied that the later models will disrupt your sleep as much as anything else. This absolutely thrilled the adolescent, who was much more willing to change his behaviour because Id caught his mum out. And she was up for changing, too.

Parmar realises she has to set an example. I love technology, but my own behaviour has changed because Im more self-aware, she says. Hence her devices being in the safe, along with her sons. But looking around her sunlit bedroom, I see a laptop on the desk, a tablet next to her pillow. So your bedroom isnt screen-free, then, I say. She looks reflective, perhaps a little sheepish, and acknowledges that she likes to watch things on her tablet once the kids have gone to bed. Shes still figuring things out, still coming to terms with the tough decisions we all need to make if we want to be more in control of our relationship with technology.

These are the conversations Parmar wants us to have, which is why she is launching a campaign and website, TheTruthAboutTech.com (no relation to a similarly named American campaign), that will offer practical tips and a space for people to share their stories. This is my new mission. And I tell you what: dealing with my son every day, it reminds me, this is personal. This is really personal.

She also wants to hold to account the tech giants who are profiting from our over-engagement. She raises her voice: I want to say, youve got to be more responsible. You can still make billions, but you should be thinking about how can you bring all the human values we want as a society into your products. She is furious with Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, who last year said the companys main competitor was not Amazon Video or YouTube, but sleep. That is disgraceful. He should be saying: My No 1 mission is to unite families in their living room around great content.

These companies, she says, are the most powerful brands in the world, more powerful than governments. Imagine if a government had said that. Theyre digital dictators, and part of this campaign is getting them to stand up and be accountable. And what does that mean? It means rethinking Snapchats streaks, which track how long users have been in daily communication, keeping them checking in for fear of losing out; it means rethinking YouTubes Up next queue, which automatically plays video after video; it means addiction ratings on video games. And thats barely scratching the surface.

How does she feel about her previous work, spreading the benefits of tech with no mention of its dangers? I think I was naive, she says. I didnt know enough. I feel good about the fact that I got more women into technology, but if I did it again, I would do it in a way that is more realistic, balancing the good and the bad.

I cant stop thinking about that safe. After all, a safe is built to protect our most precious possessions or to lock up our most dangerous weapons. It feels extraordinary that something so everyday, so anodyne as a mobile phone could have such unnerving value, such threatening power. With their influence and wealth, why would the tech giants change from digital dictators to enlightened despots?

Parmar believes commercial pressures will compel them two influential Apple shareholders are already threatening to sue the company for not limiting screen time. Graham proposes a darker alternative: We could edge towards the equivalent of a parasite that drains its host so much that it kills itself, along with the host. He doesnt mean that these technology companies and their products will actually kill us, of course. But if its this relentless, the so-called attention economy will fall down, because well all be too exhausted.

Build your digital resilience

Four tips from addiction expert Richard Graham.

1 Be united as a family. Use the American Academy of Pediatrics family media plan but remember: The whole family needs to buy into this.

2 Plan activities outside the home. Go to the cinema, for example. Its a shared experience, and theres a narrative to stoke the imagination.

3 Vary your digital diet. People get stuck in very simple diets of media consumption, using the same platforms, games and messaging apps. Using different platforms is important its about moving between them and having a sense of ease of being able to do something, then stop and move on.

4 Live healthily. Sleep enough, eat well, drink enough water and do some physical activity every day.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/15/meet-the-tech-evangelist-who-now-fears-for-our-mental-health

Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?

In this extract from his new book, Johann Hari, who took antidepressants for 14 years, calls for a new approach

In the 1970s, a truth was accidentally discovered about depression one that was quickly swept aside, because its implications were too inconvenient, and too explosive. American psychiatrists had produced a book that would lay out, in detail, all the symptoms of different mental illnesses, so they could be identified and treated in the same way across the United States. It was called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. In the latest edition, they laid out nine symptoms that a patient has to show to be diagnosed with depression like, for example, decreased interest in pleasure or persistent low mood. For a doctor to conclude you were depressed, you had to show five of these symptoms over several weeks.

The manual was sent out to doctors across the US and they began to use it to diagnose people. However, after a while they came back to the authors and pointed out something that was bothering them. If they followed this guide, they had to diagnose every grieving person who came to them as depressed and start giving them medical treatment. If you lose someone, it turns out that these symptoms will come to you automatically. So, the doctors wanted to know, are we supposed to start drugging all the bereaved people in America?

The authors conferred, and they decided that there would be a special clause added to the list of symptoms of depression. None of this applies, they said, if you have lost somebody you love in the past year. In that situation, all these symptoms are natural, and not a disorder. It was called the grief exception, and it seemed to resolve the problem.

Then, as the years and decades passed, doctors on the frontline started to come back with another question. All over the world, they were being encouraged to tell patients that depression is, in fact, just the result of a spontaneous chemical imbalance in your brain it is produced by low serotonin, or a natural lack of some other chemical. Its not caused by your life its caused by your broken brain. Some of the doctors began to ask how this fitted with the grief exception. If you agree that the symptoms of depression are a logical and understandable response to one set of life circumstances losing a loved one might they not be an understandable response to other situations? What about if you lose your job? What if you are stuck in a job that you hate for the next 40 years? What about if you are alone and friendless?

The grief exception seemed to have blasted a hole in the claim that the causes of depression are sealed away in your skull. It suggested that there are causes out here, in the world, and they needed to be investigated and solved there. This was a debate that mainstream psychiatry (with some exceptions) did not want to have. So, they responded in a simple way by whittling away the grief exception. With each new edition of the manual they reduced the period of grief that you were allowed before being labelled mentally ill down to a few months and then, finally, to nothing at all. Now, if your baby dies at 10am, your doctor can diagnose you with a mental illness at 10.01am and start drugging you straight away.

Dr Joanne Cacciatore, of Arizona State University, became a leading expert on the grief exception after her own baby, Cheyenne, died during childbirth. She had seen many grieving people being told that they were mentally ill for showing distress. She told me this debate reveals a key problem with how we talk about depression, anxiety and other forms of suffering: we dont, she said, consider context. We act like human distress can be assessed solely on a checklist that can be separated out from our lives, and labelled as brain diseases. If we started to take peoples actual lives into account when we treat depression and anxiety, Joanne explained, it would require an entire system overhaul. She told me that when you have a person with extreme human distress, [we need to] stop treating the symptoms. The symptoms are a messenger of a deeper problem. Lets get to the deeper problem.

*****

I was a teenager when I swallowed my first antidepressant. I was standing in the weak English sunshine, outside a pharmacy in a shopping centre in London. The tablet was white and small, and as I swallowed, it felt like a chemical kiss. That morning I had gone to see my doctor and I had told him crouched, embarrassed that pain was leaking out of me uncontrollably, like a bad smell, and I had felt this way for several years. In reply, he told me a story. There is a chemical called serotonin that makes people feel good, he said, and some people are naturally lacking it in their brains. You are clearly one of those people. There are now, thankfully, new drugs that will restore your serotonin level to that of a normal person. Take them, and you will be well. At last, I understood what had been happening to me, and why.

However, a few months into my drugging, something odd happened. The pain started to seep through again. Before long, I felt as bad as I had at the start. I went back to my doctor, and he told me that I was clearly on too low a dose. And so, 20 milligrams became 30 milligrams; the white pill became blue. I felt better for several months. And then the pain came back through once more. My dose kept being jacked up, until I was on 80mg, where it stayed for many years, with only a few short breaks. And still the pain broke back through.

I started to research my book, Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions, because I was puzzled by two mysteries. Why was I still depressed when I was doing everything I had been told to do? I had identified the low serotonin in my brain, and I was boosting my serotonin levels yet I still felt awful. But there was a deeper mystery still. Why were so many other people across the western world feeling like me? Around one in five US adults are taking at least one drug for a psychiatric problem. In Britain, antidepressant prescriptions have doubled in a decade, to the point where now one in 11 of us drug ourselves to deal with these feelings. What has been causing depression and its twin, anxiety, to spiral in this way? I began to ask myself: could it really be that in our separate heads, all of us had brain chemistries that were spontaneously malfunctioning at the same time?

To find the answers, I ended up going on a 40,000-mile journey across the world and back. I talked to the leading social scientists investigating these questions, and to people who have been overcoming depression in unexpected ways from an Amish village in Indiana, to a Brazilian city that banned advertising and a laboratory in Baltimore conducting a startling wave of experiments. From these people, I learned the best scientific evidence about what really causes depression and anxiety. They taught me that it is not what we have been told it is up to now. I found there is evidence that seven specific factors in the way we are living today are causing depression and anxiety to rise alongside two real biological factors (such as your genes) that can combine with these forces to make it worse.

Once I learned this, I was able to see that a very different set of solutions to my depression and to our depression had been waiting for me all along.

To understand this different way of thinking, though, I had to first investigate the old story, the one that had given me so much relief at first. Professor Irving Kirsch at Harvard University is the Sherlock Holmes of chemical antidepressants the man who has scrutinised the evidence about giving drugs to depressed and anxious people most closely in the world. In the 1990s, he prescribed chemical antidepressants to his patients with confidence. He knew the published scientific evidence, and it was clear: it showed that 70% of people who took them got significantly better. He began to investigate this further, and put in a freedom of information request to get the data that the drug companies had been privately gathering into these drugs. He was confident that he would find all sorts of other positive effects but then he bumped into something peculiar.

Illustration
Illustration by Michael Driver.

We all know that when you take selfies, you take 30 pictures, throw away the 29 where you look bleary-eyed or double-chinned, and pick out the best one to be your Tinder profile picture. It turned out that the drug companies who fund almost all the research into these drugs were taking this approach to studying chemical antidepressants. They would fund huge numbers of studies, throw away all the ones that suggested the drugs had very limited effects, and then only release the ones that showed success. To give one example: in one trial, the drug was given to 245 patients, but the drug company published the results for only 27 of them. Those 27 patients happened to be the ones the drug seemed to work for. Suddenly, Professor Kirsch realised that the 70% figure couldnt be right.

It turns out that between 65 and 80% of people on antidepressants are depressed again within a year. I had thought that I was freakish for remaining depressed while on these drugs. In fact, Kirsch explained to me in Massachusetts, I was totally typical. These drugs are having a positive effect for some people but they clearly cant be the main solution for the majority of us, because were still depressed even when we take them. At the moment, we offer depressed people a menu with only one option on it. I certainly dont want to take anything off the menu but I realised, as I spent time with him, that we would have to expand the menu.

This led Professor Kirsch to ask a more basic question, one he was surprised to be asking. How do we know depression is even caused by low serotonin at all? When he began to dig, it turned out that the evidence was strikingly shaky. Professor Andrew Scull of Princeton, writing in the Lancet, explained that attributing depression to spontaneously low serotonin is deeply misleading and unscientific. Dr David Healy told me: There was never any basis for it, ever. It was just marketing copy.

I didnt want to hear this. Once you settle into a story about your pain, you are extremely reluctant to challenge it. It was like a leash I had put on my distress to keep it under some control. I feared that if I messed with the story I had lived with for so long, the pain would run wild, like an unchained animal. Yet the scientific evidence was showing me something clear, and I couldnt ignore it.

*****

So, what is really going on? When I interviewed social scientists all over the world from So Paulo to Sydney, from Los Angeles to London I started to see an unexpected picture emerge. We all know that every human being has basic physical needs: for food, for water, for shelter, for clean air. It turns out that, in the same way, all humans have certain basic psychological needs. We need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel were good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future. And there is growing evidence that our culture isnt meeting those psychological needs for many perhaps most people. I kept learning that, in very different ways, we have become disconnected from things we really need, and this deep disconnection is driving this epidemic of depression and anxiety all around us.

Lets look at one of those causes, and one of the solutions we can begin to see if we understand it differently. There is strong evidence that human beings need to feel their lives are meaningful that they are doing something with purpose that makes a difference. Its a natural psychological need. But between 2011 and 2012, the polling company Gallup conducted the most detailed study ever carried out of how people feel about the thing we spend most of our waking lives doing our paid work. They found that 13% of people say they are engaged in their work they find it meaningful and look forward to it. Some 63% say they are not engaged, which is defined as sleepwalking through their workday. And 24% are actively disengaged: they hate it.

A
Antidepressant prescriptions have doubled over the last decade. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

Most of the depressed and anxious people I know, I realised, are in the 87% who dont like their work. I started to dig around to see if there is any evidence that this might be related to depression. It turned out that a breakthrough had been made in answering this question in the 1970s, by an Australian scientist called Michael Marmot. He wanted to investigate what causes stress in the workplace and believed hed found the perfect lab in which to discover the answer: the British civil service, based in Whitehall. This small army of bureaucrats was divided into 19 different layers, from the permanent secretary at the top, down to the typists. What he wanted to know, at first, was: whos more likely to have a stress-related heart attack the big boss at the top, or somebody below him?

Everybody told him: youre wasting your time. Obviously, the boss is going to be more stressed because hes got more responsibility. But when Marmot published his results, he revealed the truth to be the exact opposite. The lower an employee ranked in the hierarchy, the higher their stress levels and likelihood of having a heart attack. Now he wanted to know: why?

And thats when, after two more years studying civil servants, he discovered the biggest factor. It turns out if you have no control over your work, you are far more likely to become stressed and, crucially, depressed. Humans have an innate need to feel that what we are doing, day-to-day, is meaningful. When you are controlled, you cant create meaning out of your work.

Suddenly, the depression of many of my friends, even those in fancy jobs who spend most of their waking hours feeling controlled and unappreciated started to look not like a problem with their brains, but a problem with their environments. There are, I discovered, many causes of depression like this. However, my journey was not simply about finding the reasons why we feel so bad. The core was about finding out how we can feel better how we can find real and lasting antidepressants that work for most of us, beyond only the packs of pills we have been offered as often the sole item on the menu for the depressed and anxious. I kept thinking about what Dr Cacciatore had taught me we have to deal with the deeper problems that are causing all this distress.

I found the beginnings of an answer to the epidemic of meaningless work in Baltimore. Meredith Mitchell used to wake up every morning with her heart racing with anxiety. She dreaded her office job. So she took a bold step one that lots of people thought was crazy. Her husband, Josh, and their friends had worked for years in a bike store, where they were ordered around and constantly felt insecure, Most of them were depressed. One day, they decided to set up their own bike store, but they wanted to run it differently. Instead of having one guy at the top giving orders, they would run it as a democratic co-operative. This meant they would make decisions collectively, they would share out the best and worst jobs and they would all, together, be the boss. It would be like a busy democratic tribe. When I went to their store Baltimore Bicycle Works the staff explained how, in this different environment, their persistent depression and anxiety had largely lifted.

Its not that their individual tasks had changed much. They fixed bikes before; they fix bikes now. But they had dealt with the unmet psychological needs that were making them feel so bad by giving themselves autonomy and control over their work. Josh had seen for himself that depressions are very often, as he put it, rational reactions to the situation, not some kind of biological break. He told me there is no need to run businesses anywhere in the old humiliating, depressing way we could move together, as a culture, to workers controlling their own workplaces.

*****

With each of the nine causes of depression and anxiety I learned about, I kept being taught startling facts and arguments like this that forced me to think differently. Professor John Cacioppo of Chicago University taught me that being acutely lonely is as stressful as being punched in the face by a stranger and massively increases your risk of depression. Dr Vincent Felitti in San Diego showed me that surviving severe childhood trauma makes you 3,100% more likely to attempt suicide as an adult. Professor Michael Chandler in Vancouver explained to me that if a community feels it has no control over the big decisions affecting it, the suicide rate will shoot up.

This new evidence forces us to seek out a very different kind of solution to our despair crisis. One person in particular helped me to unlock how to think about this. In the early days of the 21st century, a South African psychiatrist named Derek Summerfeld went to Cambodia, at a time when antidepressants were first being introduced there. He began to explain the concept to the doctors he met. They listened patiently and then told him they didnt need these new antidepressants, because they already had anti-depressants that work. He assumed they were talking about some kind of herbal remedy.

He asked them to explain, and they told him about a rice farmer they knew whose left leg was blown off by a landmine. He was fitted with a new limb, but he felt constantly anxious about the future, and was filled with despair. The doctors sat with him, and talked through his troubles. They realised that even with his new artificial limb, his old jobworking in the rice paddieswas leaving him constantly stressed and in physical pain, and that was making him want to just stop living. So they had an idea. They believed that if he became a dairy farmer, he could live differently. So they bought him a cow. In the months and years that followed, his life changed. His depressionwhich had been profoundwent away. You see, doctor, they told him, the cow was an antidepressant.

To them, finding an antidepressant didnt mean finding a way to change your brain chemistry. It meant finding a way to solve the problem that was causing the depression in the first place. We can do the same. Some of these solutions are things we can do as individuals, in our private lives. Some require bigger social shifts, which we can only achieve together, as citizens. But all of them require us to change our understanding of what depression and anxiety really are.

This is radical, but it is not, I discovered, a maverick position. In its official statement for World Health Day in 2017, the United Nations reviewed the best evidence and concluded that the dominant biomedical narrative of depression is based on biased and selective use of research outcomes that must be abandoned. We need to move from focusing on chemical imbalances, they said, to focusing more on power imbalances.

After I learned all this, and what it means for us all, I started to long for the power to go back in time and speak to my teenage self on the day he was told a story about his depression that was going to send him off in the wrong direction for so many years. I wanted to tell him: This pain you are feeling is not a pathology. Its not crazy. It is a signal that your natural psychological needs are not being met. It is a form of grief for yourself, and for the culture you live in going so wrong. I know how much it hurts. I know how deeply it cuts you. But you need to listen to this signal. We all need to listen to the people around us sending out this signal. It is telling you what is going wrong. It is telling you that you need to be connected in so many deep and stirring ways that you arent yet but you can be, one day.

If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs for deep connection, to the things that really matter in life.

This is an edited extract from Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari, published by Bloomsbury on 11 January (16.99). To order a copy for 14.44 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99. It will be available in audio at audible.co.uk

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/07/is-everything-you-think-you-know-about-depression-wrong-johann-hari-lost-connections

40+ Things People Dont Realise Youre Doing Because Of Your Depression

Depression affects millions of us, and while we are slowly opening up about mental health issues and beginning to banish the stigma that surrounds them, it is critically important to keep open the conversation to foster understanding and empathy for those who may be struggling.

Sarah Schuster is the mental health editor at The Mighty, and she decided to find out how depression manifests itself in ways other people can’t see.

“While most people imagine depression equals ‘really sad,’ unless you’ve experienced depression yourself, you might not know it goes so much deeper than that,” she writes. “Depression expresses itself in many different ways, some more obvious than others. While some people have a hard time getting out of bed, others might get to work just fine — it’s different for everyone.”

Asking community members on The Mighty Facebook page the question: “What’s something people don’t realise you’re doing because you live with depression?” The response was eye-opening. Below is a list of some of the things that people had to say. Scroll down to check it out.

Struggle to get out of bed, sometimes for hours. Then just the thought of taking a shower is exhausting. If I manage to do that, I am ready for a nap. People don’t understand, but anxiety amd depression is exhausting, much like an actual physical fight with a professional boxer.

Going to bed at 9 pm and sleeping throughout the night until 10 or 11 am. Then getting out of bed is the hard part. Showering is also a struggle. Trying to keep the house tidy. Watching hours upon hours of Netflix but not even interested in what I’m watching because nothing really interests me anymore.

Agreeing to social plans but canceling last minute. Using an excuse but really you just chickened out. It makes you think that your friends don’t actually want to see you, they just feel bad. Obligation.

I can deal with depression, I can’t deal with people who say “we all get sad at times, get over it” “I’m depressed too, I get on with my life” depression isn’t the same for everyone. I’m glad some people can cope easier but I can’t.

I don’t like talking on the phone. I prefer to text. Less pressure there.
Also being anti-social. Not because I don’t like being around people, but because I’m pretty sure everyone can’t stand me.

Sometimes I’ll forget to eat all day. I can feel my stomach growling but don’t have the willpower to get up and make something to eat

Hiding in my phone. Yes, I am addicted to it, but not like other people. I don’t socialize, I play games or browse online stores to distract myself from my negative thoughts. It’s my safe bubble.

In social situations, some people don’t realize I withdraw or don’t speak much because of depression. Instead, they think I’m being rude or purposefully antisocial.

Say that I’m tired or don’t feel good all of the time. They don’t realize how much depression can affect you physically as well as emotionally. I have a hard time finding energy when I’m in a depressive cycle. That means I don’t stay on top of stuff & let things slide (like house work) because I use all of my energy for what absolutely has to be done. Then I have none left for anything else. When I’m depressed, we eat out more, my house chores fall behind, & I binge watch TV or read to escape. But the energy, that’s just gone.

Purposely working on the holidays so I can avoid spending time with family. it’s overwhelming to be around them and to talk about the future and life so I avoid it.

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People think I’m lazy and a freerider because I haven’t had a job since leaving uni. They don’t realise that I want to work more than anything, but have an endless stream of negativity constantly running through my head that terrifies me out of even printing out an application form.

I used to live with depression. People didn’t seem to notice it because I was always smiling while talking to them and making jokes which made my personality look bright and joyful, while I was actually dark inside, full of sadness and lost hope.

Isolating myself, not living up to my potential at work due to lack of interest in anything, making self-deprecating jokes. I’ve said many times before, “I laugh, so that I don’t cry.”
Unfortunately, it’s all too true

Being angry, mean or rude to people I love without realizing it in the moment. I realize my actions and words later and feel awful that I had taken out my anger on people who don’t deserve it

Depression to me was like having an evil person as my puppet master telling me that I will feel no joy, have no desire, have no energy, no appetite, no light. Like something steals your soul. Until you have experienced it, you will not understand it. I wouldn’t wish this feeling on my worst enemy.

For me, specifically the things I wish people would realise are due to my depression are my apparent “laziness”, virtually not keeping in touch with anyone, bad personal hygiene, and extremely bad reactions to seemingly trivial things.

Neglecting to do basic things like laundry, not wanting to cook a meal or eat. They think I’m being lazy.

Fighting day to day with not wanting to give up and trying to show myself my own self worth.

When I reach out when I’m depressed its cause I am wanting to have someone to tell me I’m not alone. Not cause I want attention.

I just sit all day, getting up only to use the bathroom. My chair is also my bed. I have a bed, but i just stay in my chair. I don’t sleep well, and I eat very little. The TV is on, but I may or may not be watching. I just sit.

My house is a huge mess.

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The struggle to get out of bed and get off the couch is hell. The physical pain that exists. The house always a mess because no one else will or can do anything and I get blamed which all just makes the depression worse. The thinking about what I need to do makes me anxiety paralyzing.
Not having a job and physically not being able to even look for one after all the rejection.
People think I’m lazy.
I know a clean house helps me feel better, helps me socialize, causes peace and calmness, I want to and I try, but I just can’t. I know a job will give me purpose and reduce stress by adding some financial stability to my family. I really want one and perhaps that is why it is so heartbreaking every time those phone calls don’t come.

I don’t talk much in large groups of people, especially when I first meet them. I withdraw because of my anxiety and depression. People think i am ‘stuck up’. I’m actually scared out of my mind worrying that they don’t like me, or that they think I’m crazy or stupid, by just looking at me…

I over compensate in my work environment…and I work front line at a Fitness Centre, so I feel the need to portray an ‘extra happy, bubbly personality’. As soon as I walk out the doors at the end of the day, I literally feel myself ‘fall’. It’s exhausting! Then my night is a constant battle in my head fighting my desire to ‘shrink’ and anxieties. Most people that I interact with would NEVER know I live a daily battle of major depressive disorder, PTSD and anxiety. I am a professional at hiding it.

Cancel plans because of anxiety. Stay home and hardly ever go out. Struggling to get out of bed everyday. It’s exhausting. Getting ready for work is a struggle. There is so much. Been dealing with this for 35 years

The excessive drinking.
Most people assume I’m trying to be the “life of the party” or just like drinking in general. I often get praised for it.
But my issues are much deeper than that.

People don’t realize that I say sorry before I even think about expressing any opinions because that’s how worthless I feel. I’m apologizing for feeling anything about anything because that’s how little I feel I matter. They don’t just know I feel like apologizing for even breathing in their general direction. I even say I’m sorry before asking to use the bathroom no matter how long I’ve held it. I feel like a burden for biological needs I have no control over.

That I’m fighting through a wall of separation when I talk to them. That sometimes I blank or delay in answering because I’m still trying to process what they’re saying.

That when I reach out to them it’s after an agonizing period of trying not to. I don’t want to burden people with my shit, but sometimes I just need to hear someone’s voice.

That my everyday is marked with extreme fatigue and exhaustion. That everything for me takes much much longer.

That I am completely envious of people who are full of life and genki af. That I wish my life was nothing but optimism and bliss, that I felt a zest for life and was overflowing with energy. That that is who I really am behind all the junk they have to see and put up with. That I wish I could just ignore it all and have fun.

Sometimes I’ll go days without speaking to anybody. People tend to believe I’m ignoring them on purpose when really I am just lost within myself. I don’t mean to seem like I’m pushing people away. Some days it’s hard when my thoughts consume me and when I can’t find the motivation to simple things that others do on a daily basis.

I wake up feeling like I’m a failure. I have to coach myself every morning into telling myself that I’m good at my job, my kids love me, my husband needs me…and if I don’t go to work everything gets shut off… it’s like I can’t move…

Answering slowly. It makes my brain run slower and I can’t think of the answers to the questions as quickly. Especially when someone is asking what I want to do – I don’t really want anything. I isolate myself so I don’t have to be forced into a situation where I have to respond because it’s exhausting.

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I push away/cut off everyone that I care about because I can’t bear to be hurt by them! Everyone just thinks I’m mean and anti-social.

Keeping the house dark is a comfort thing for me. People always point it out, like “No wonder you’re so depressed. You need to let some light in.” Darkness in my living space makes me feel comfortable, almost like I’m not alone, on my bad days. Good days, I’m all about the sunshine!

Sleeping, anxiety, not eating, feeling worthless, directionless, not wanting to impose my worthless directionless self on other people, being completely exhausted by having to keep the outer mask in place (which is why I’m antisocial– simply being upbeat enough to order coffee at Starbucks will sometimes rinse me for the afternoon).

I want to talk about it. I want to scream. I want to yell. I want to shout about it! But all I can do is whisper “I’m fine.”

Overthinking everything and over planning. The need to make everything perfect and everyone happy even if it’s taking all my energy. As if validation from someone else will make it all better. Sometimes I start out on high power then just crash and don’t even enjoy what ive spents weeks/months planning. And none will see me for months after, as I retreat into my safe bubble

I find that after so many years I just can’t believe in people at all anymore. My vision of myself and the world is so negatively distorted that no matter how much I want to believe when people are nice to me, I can’t.

People who say I’m not ugly are lying and laughing behind my back. People who act like they like me are just going with the flow and don’t really care.
Even if they aren’t being mean, they’re just being polite, and it’s not like they care about me personally. Being a part of a group actually means that you’re just one more and don’t individually matter.

People are not honest, people are always just “polite” – kindness is a lie to look good to others and to feel good about themselves.

Agonizing over tiny problems for days because I’m too afraid to talk to the person who hurt me. Then being told I need to “get over it” or “calm down” or “stop dwelling”. Yes, I know this is not a big deal. Yea, I know I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. Yes, I know I’m difficult, impossible, frustrating and annoying… but I’m also just trying to get through my day. All I need is that reminder that I’m actually okay, not someone demanding that I BE okay.

Hiding out in my room for hours at a time watching Netflix or Hulu to distract my mind or taking frequent trips to the bathroom or into another room at social gatherings because social situations sometimes get to me.

I CAN RELATE TO EVERY COMMENT I HAVE READ WHICH IS SO SAD. SO MANY OF US HURTING AND LIVING WITH THE FEELING WE ARE ALONE. I EVEN FEEL GUILTY TALKING TO MY COUNSLER THINKING SHE IS GETTING SO TIRED OF ME TALKING ABOUT THIS STUFF. I BEAT CANCER A FEW YEARS AGO AND YOU WOULD THINK THAT WOULD HAVE GIVIN ME A NEW LEASE ON LIFE BUT IT ONLY MADE ME MORE DEPRESSED THOSE WHO HAVE HAD TO DEAL WITH DEPRESSION FOR A LONG TIME WILL UNDERSTAND WHY.

I get obsessive over things. Things like I’m worthless or I’m a bad person or I’m secretly just like the people I hate most. Sometimes I can’t tell if what I am thinking is true or not. I get anxiety at social events. I feel like people hate me or just don’t care about me. I cling to certain people and want them to love me. My brain sometimes goes into overdrive and I can’t turn it off and it causes a downward spiral that is hard to pull out of.

I don’t tell people because I don’t want to be labeled. I don’t want them to see me as broken and depressed or that I’m just being silly. But at the same time people get upset at me or mad about things but they don’t understand what I have to deal with.

I listen to music a lot. I read tons and tons of fantasy books. I like watching movies. All of these take me away from reality for a while and puts me into amazing worlds where I know things are going to end happily. I love being in plays and musicals because I get to be someone else entirely and I know how things are going to end and it makes me happier.

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Running a business not answering the phone for years … still works, though …. cancelling all the jobs that makes it neccessary leaving my home … can‘t leave my cats alone … I am turning into this crazy cat lady … at least I don‘t miss anything – I really enjoy my own company … people empty me .

Every night I look at all the pictures of dead relatives I have and asking them to please come get me I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m 71 and have been suffering from depression on and off in my life since I was 18. I truly am done.

I think its hard for people to understand me when i may sound negative because i live with depression. They might question my motivation n even determination to do something but they dont realize its a battle to wake up everyday fighting my own thoughts n suffering from low energy.

Some very universal themes in all the examples. I remember my days, twenty years ago, before medication and therapy well. Realizing that my feelings were not unique was part of the key; overcoming isolation was another. It cannot be fixed alone.

I thought I was really bad at hiding my anxiety until one day a friend came to tell me that she wished she lived her life like how I did mine , cause I am always happy and take everything with a pinch of salt. Now I know that I’m an ace at covering up .

I know what should I do to get rid of depression, but I can’t. I’m in a lake, I know how to swim, but I’m paralyzed. I think that’s it.

Almost all day every day I am on the internet reading science fiction short stories and going through sites like this for a sort of escape. When there is company I keep to myself more, unless my sister and her family are visiting.

Going for late night walks by myself. My depression keeps me awake at night and my thoughts can get so overwhelming I feel physically crowded inside. Late night walks help me quiet the screaming in my head.

I have often been accused of having “no sense of humor”. So wrong. Before depression took over my life I smiled, and laughed, as much as the next person. Now, having lived with depression for over 15 years, the humor I find in a joke, or situation, is rarely visible on my face or heard in my laugh. I feel humor, but it’s just too much effort to express it. I don’t have the energy.

I feel like a stranger in my own life. Having had surgery, off work, no savings, short term disability behind, water frozen, kitchen full of dirty dishes, but I am alive and taking meds.

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It’s so comforting to see I’m not alone. Being indecisive, having extreme difficulty making decisions because you can only see and fear all the things that will go wrong. And when/if a decision has been Finally made, the inability to take action and carry it out because of fear and anxiety. Financial problems overwhelming, inadequacy, social fear, losing your temper for no reason, hours of crying fits, safety in your little home, but being so lonely, heartbreak, regret and grief because of loss of dreams, feeling useless & lazy because you cannot complete basic household chores. Eating too much junk or nothing at all because it’s too much trouble. Having a long list of fun things to do in your spare time that you KNOW will make you feel great about yourself, but you just cannot get out of bed to do them – yearning for the days when you could. Just wanting to sleep so you don’t have to FEEL anything. The GUILT of having depression because everyone else seems to have their life together and so should you at this age. But you don’t know how to do it. The guilt you feel because of the Support you DO get from Friends who understand – don’t they have their own lives to live without having to worry about you all the time? Not feeling good enough/worthy of being loved by someone after being rejected. Escaping into your phone or movies/series. Genuinely not wanting to carry on, even/especially after 3 suicide unsuccessful ‘attempts’, because it seems this is as good as it gets and you are just using up Earth’s valuable resources, a waste of space. Feeling like a burden. Depression is a killer.

People will always tell you “When you’re feeling like that, reach out to someone”. But I don’t want to anymore. Any time that I try to, I’m told I’m too negative, or to get over it, or SOMETHING along the lines of “How dare you have told me this?”. Every time I try to open up to people they either tell me off or just outright block me.
It’s come to the point where when I hear people say “I care about your happiness”, I interpret it as “I only care about you when you’re happy”. Talking through these kinds of emotions are usually a great help, but how can I get said help if nobody cares enough about me to talk to me about it at all? I’m grateful to have a therapist, but a lot of people don’t have the money or other resources for such help.

Endless negativity towards yourself and everyone else. Feeling like a continuous failure because you don’t have the energy to do the right things in your life. Constantly telling yourself you’re worthless and people around you will be better off if you’re not there. Panic attacks that happen at night and keep you awake. Wondering if it will ever get over.

I volunteer for everything from going to pto meetings to baby sitting to cleaning someone else’s house for them. I surround myself with situations and obligations that force me to get out of bed & get out of the house because if I’m not needed, I won’t be wanted..

I always say I’m going to do something with the guys and when it comes time to do it. I back away. Also sleeping for hours not because I’m lazy but because dealing with all the thoughts in my head from anxiety along with depression is exhausting. Feels like kind of when your in winter and the cold air is blowing and you find it hard to breath. It’s like that daily for me.

I’ve dealt with depression most my life. Most my symptoms are manageable as long as I’m being mindful of my attitude, thoughts, and behavior. I don’t ignore people and I let them know when I need alone time or if I’m not feeling well. When life gets boring or mundane I remind myself that this is not my last stop and I continue dreaming. These are some of the ways that I manage depression.

I prefer to be awake through the night because I can just stay in bed without anyone getting mad. I sleep up to 15 hours a day during bad periods. When I’m awake, I live in my head, I often don’t even move.

Just getting in the bath or making a cup of tea is a major achievement. Having my dog has made me get out of the house at least twice a day, have to take hours to get motivated sometimes though. But if I didn’t have him, I probably wouldn’t leave the house unless it was for work.

I get very apathetic. And I’ll refuse (read: I can’t) to make any decisions. Even tiny ones like what to eat. I physically won’t be able to make a decision. So if there isn’t someone around to tell me to eat something and what to eat, I won’t eat. If there isn’t someone to tell me to go to sleep, I won’t. It gets to the point where if someone asks me to make a decision or tries to force me to make a decision I’ll just curl up into a ball and cry.

My sleep patterns are all over the place. I have lots of bad dreams and I’m tired all the time. Work takes a lot of energy, being happy and enthusiastic (I’m a teacher) I crash when I get home. Change makes me anxious. On bad days my hands will shake and I feel anxious and jittery but I don’t know why. I forget my words. If I’m down and someone asks how I’m going I’ll just burst into tears. I’m happiest when I’m too busy to think, but then I wear out and crash. The situation that caused my depression is gone and logically I know I should be fine now, happy now…but I’m still struggling. I lost good habits and picked up some bad habits. I’ll agree to plans and then cancel, I feel like I’m turning into a hermit and if I talk to someone about it they will think I’m weak and get sick of me being down all the time. So, I stay home by myself.

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I’m 25 but still virgin, no job, no money no boyfriend, I still live with my family, I can’t even graduate from college at my 6th year because I can’t focus anything, I can’t get up from bed, I don’t want to do anything, just sleep and hope to die.

As i read these, i can totally relate to almost all of them. That constant
battle royale what you have to fight against your demons. The struggle to eat, to shower, to clean your room/house, go to school/workplace. And the world says that you are lazy is only oil onto the fire. When they say “yeah everyone gets sad”. Well you don’t say? I’m not sad. I’m DEPRESSED. There is a huge difference. Sadness is an emotin when something bad happened. Depression is feeling sad, alone, exhausted or even suicidal etc. My favourite is “you have nothing to be depressed, you have at least half of your life in front of you”. Yea… most people can’t realize the fact depression has multiple reasons, Not just the traumatical one. It can be in your genes because someone was depressed in your family, it can be a random switch from a day to the other just because your neurochemical balance got broken and became a neurochemical imbalance. So you don’t need any reason to be depressed it can just happen. (just like in my case, and in many others’)

Sometimes i just don’t eat for 2-3 days, then i try to eat normally, then i eat a lot. Same with sleep. Somethimes I’m like an insomniac, then I’m like i have hypersomnia. This cycle is what killing a lot of us.

That feel when sleep is not just a sleep anymore, more likely a way to escape. But then you realise that when you sleep only the time passes but it’s just like a snap of fingers and you feel the demons again. Then you feel like “please god, i don’t want to wake up tomorrow, please”. The feel when you are in front of the mirror and just screaming/crying and literally begging to yourself to hold on.

I know how it feels, i feel like I already lost and I’m really afrad if it as well.

But please, whoever you are, be strong, i know it’s a cliche what you hear always, but we hear that all the time only because it’s our only chance.

I’m currently feeling some pretty deep depression because of what I’m going through. Between the stress and depression all I can do is sleep because I’m so worn out. In some pretty dark places right now and pushing everyone away. I hope it will end when I face the monster that is trying to kill me at the end of the month. I’ve lost everything in the last 2 years because of this person and their agency. I can relate to just about everyone of these and have lost friends over it. I had one friend tell me that my friends don’t like hanging out with me because I’m negative. Well a chance to loose your life is pretty negative. Just saying.

People think I’m really flaky. I say I’m busy and I can’t do the thing I said I’d do but I’m busy hiding. That’s depression. The great need to be busy until you’re so totally physically exhausted so you don’t have to be afraid of your own thoughts: that’s anxiety.

I have tendencies towards a lot of what’s been described here: I wake up sometimes and think: ‘Ugh! How am I going to get up today?’ I have times I want to avoid people, where I become very introverted, where I want to drink every night, where I don’t feel like making any efforts to try to address my difficult financial situation (I can’t find a good job just yet).

I can’t speak for everyone, but what works for me, and I think will work for some, but certainly not all others, is that I work against these things one at a time, with simple but effective rules: 1. I will not let myself sleep more than 8.5 hours (assuming I’m not recovering from some serious sleep deprivation) 2. I will not let myself buy alcohol at a store or go to a bar until a weekend night. 3. I will require myself to do at least a few job applications, or application follow ups or go to some networking thing at least a few times a week. 4. I will exercise at least for a half hour 5-6 days a week. 5. I will write one more chapter of my novel manuscript today. 6. I will tidy up my room for 10-20 minutes as I play my favorite music. 7. I will enjoy a little indulgent food like dessert but I won’t go crazy on dessert.

Ask yourself this: can I put my more intelligent self in charge, one simple step at a time?

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I can’t sleep at night because thoughts of failure run through my head

I’m always alone until someone in my family needs something. And I’m up all night trying to figure out how to solve everyone else’s problem. After their problem are solved, they’re gone…no thank you, and they may even talk about me behind my back about how they used me again. But If I don’t help, I’m the crazy sister, aunt,etc.. If family does this to you, I’m afraid to meet strangers. No one cares that I’m alone all day at home hiding in the house with burns all over my body, I’ve been told that I’m too depressing to be around, until they need help again. I need to drop my family and find people like me. But where do burn victims hook up? Heaven I guess!

Everyone here is not alone, This thread is proof of it. There are people out there who can help work through a lot of theses issues, being medication or conversation, relationship or companionship. The point is, It sucks. This disease really sucks. But to help and fix this disease we need to speak up, Most friends and family and doctors won’t know until we tell them. It also helps to push myself daily, to challenge myself, even to scare myself. Maybe to set a time to get up or shower or eat. After awhile it becomes routine. Routines can help move to a better position. Just my 2cents.

My emotions overwhelm me. I second guess everything I do or don’t do. I feel like no matter what I do it will be wrong. I am constantly exhausted and want to escape into sleep to avoid life. I feel hopeless and helpless and I don’t think anyone understands. I want to scream for help but no one knows how to help me and I feel like they don’t want to hear it and they’re trivializing my struggle. I want to physically cut it out of myself.

Always having to be around someone. I have a total inability to be alone. I don’t even have to talk to a person…as long as I know they’re physically there, I’m content. Otherwise, depressing thoughts creep in and I end up driving myself crazy. It’s less effort to put on the facade that I’m fine in front of other people, than it is to face myself alone.

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Sometimes I can’t breathe

I have anxiety and pretty much think I’m useless all the time & that people don’t actually like me. It’s like My inner monologue is constantly putting me down. Because of this, I can’t handle criticism of any kind. In a work situation it comes across like I’m not listening when taking constructive criticism, or if I’ve made a mistake and I’m being called out on it. It may seem like I’m ignoring criticism but in reality I’m shutting down because i’ve already started to tell myself that I’m useless and I’m scolding myself for messing up.

I don’t feel like I’m “in me”. I feel like I’m looking on. Like I’m behind something but watching with hypervigilance. I also stress over things way beforehand. “Which door will I go in? Someone’s going to laugh if I get the wrong door”. “Where do I park? I’m going to be in someone’s way”. “When I walk in, everyone’s going to look at me”. It goes on and on. My mind is so chaotic that it is empty, blank. I cannot say things in order or make others understand what I am trying to get across. Words won’t come. When they do they don’t come out right or the thoughts in my head are not the thoughts I am thinking. They think I’m using figures of speech. Once I was telling my therapist that I didn’t feel like I was 46. She went to give me a high five! I meant that I feel emotionally stunted, like I didn’t go past a certain point somewhere along the line. I have PTSD from sexual abuse by one person and physical and verbal abuse from my father. I had it coming at me in every direction it feels like. I feel SO tired all the time, all, the time. No energy to do anything. I have no interest in anything anymore. My apartment isn’t dirty but things pile up. I know, logically I need to get my butt moving but I just can’t. I want to sleep and nap all the time. Facebook is an outlet for me. I have made groups so that I can post

Read more: http://www.boredpanda.com/people-share-what-is-like-to-live-with-depression/

Jake Tapper picks the PERFECT screencap for a piece on Trump’s mental fitness

As Twitchy reported earlier, lawmakers concerned about President Trump’s mental health invited a Yale psychiatry professor to brief them in December, although Geraldo Rivera says Trump is “sharp, focused, and exactly as he’s been for the last 40 years.”

Read more: https://twitchy.com/brettt-3136/2018/01/04/jake-tapper-picks-the-perfect-screencap-for-a-piece-on-trumps-mental-fitness/

Poor diet is a factor in one in five deaths, global disease study reveals

Study compiling data from every country finds people are living longer but millions are eating wrong foods for their health

Poor diet is a factor in one in five deaths around the world, according to the most comprehensive study ever carried out on the subject.

Millions of people are eating the wrong sorts of food for good health. Eating a diet that is low in whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds and fish oils and high in salt raises the risk of an early death, according to the huge and ongoing study Global Burden of Disease.

The study, based at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, compiles data from every country in the world and makes informed estimates where there are gaps. Five papers on life expectancy and the causes and risk factors of death and ill health have been published by the Lancet medical journal.

It finds that people are living longer. Life expectancy in 2016 worldwide was 75.3 years for women and 69.8 for men. Japan has the highest life expectancy at 84 years and the Central African Republic has the lowest at just over 50. In the UK, life expectancy for a man born in 2016 is 79, and for a woman 82.9.

Diet is the second highest risk factor for early death after smoking. Other high risks are high blood glucose which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, high body mass index (BMI) which is a measure of obesity, and high total cholesterol. All of these can be related to eating the wrong foods, although there are also other causes.

causes of death graphic

This is really large, Dr Christopher Murray, IHMEs director, told the Guardian. It is amongst the really big problems in the world. It is a cluster that is getting worse. While obesity gets attention, he was not sure policymakers were as focused on the area of diet and health as they needed to be. That constellation is a really, really big challenge for health and health systems, he said.

The problem is often seen as the spread of western diets, taking over from traditional foods in the developing world. But it is not that simple, says Murray. Take fruit. It has lots of health benefits but only very wealthy people eat a lot of fruit, with some exceptions.

Sugary drinks are harmful to health but eating a lot of red meat, the study finds, is not as big a risk to health as failing to eat whole grains. We need to look really carefully at what are the healthy compounds in diets that provide protection, he said.

undernourishment graphic

Prof John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said the studies show how quickly diet and obesity-related disease is spreading around the world. I dont think people realise how quickly the focus is shifting towards non-communicable disease [such as cancer, heart disease and stroke] and diseases that come with development, in particular related to poor diet. The numbers are quite shocking in my view, he said.

The UK tracks childhood obesity through the school measurement programme and has brought in measures to try to tackle it. But no country in the world has been able to solve the problem and it is a concern that we really need to think about tackling globally, he said.

Today, 72% of deaths are from non-communicable diseases for which obesity and diet are among the risk factors, with ischaemic heart disease as the leading cause worldwide of early deaths, including in the UK. Lung cancer, stroke, lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) and Alzheimers are the other main causes in the UK.

The success story is children under five. In 2016, for the first time in modern history, fewer than 5 million children under five died in one year a significant fall compared with 1990, when 11 million died. Increased education for women, less poverty, having fewer children, vaccinations, anti-malaria bed-nets, improved water and sanitation are among the changes in low-income countries that have brought the death rate down, thanks to development aid.

People are living longer but spending more years in ill health. Obesity is one of the major reasons. More than a billion people worldwide are living with mental health and substance misuse disorders. Depression features in the top 10 causes of ill health in all but four countries.

Our findings indicate people are living longer and, over the past decade, we identified substantial progress in driving down death rates from some of the worlds most pernicious diseases and conditions, such as under age-five mortality and malaria, said Murray Yet, despite this progress, we are facing a triad of trouble holding back many nations and communities obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders.

In the UK, the concern is particularly about the increase in ill-health that prevents people from working or having a fulfilling life, said Newton. A man in the UK born in 2016 can expect only 69 years in good health and a woman 71 years.

This is yet another reminder that while were living longer, much of that extra time is spent in ill-health. It underlines the importance of preventing the conditions that keep people out of work and put their long term health in jeopardy, like musculoskeletal problems, poor hearing and mental ill health. Our priority is to help people, including during the crucial early years of life and in middle age, to give them the best chance of a long and healthy later life, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/14/poor-diet-is-a-factor-in-one-in-five-deaths-global-disease-study-reveals

Are smartphones really making our children sad?

US psychologist Jean Twenge, who has claimed that social media is having a malign affect on the young, answers critics who accuse her of crying wolf

Last week, the childrens commissioner, Anne Longfield, launched a campaign to help parents regulate internet and smartphone use at home. She suggested that the overconsumption of social media was a problem akin to that of junk-food diets. None of us, as parents, would want our children to eat junk food all the time double cheeseburger, chips, every day, every meal, she said. For those same reasons, we shouldnt want our children to do the same with their online time.

A few days later, former GCHQ spy agency chief Robert Hannigan responded to the campaign. The assumption that time online or in front of a screen is life wasted needs challenging. It is driven by fear, he said. The best thing we can do is to focus less on the time they spend on screens at home and more on the nature of the activity.

This exchange is just one more example of how childrens screentime has become an emotive, contested issue. Last December, more than 40 educationalists, psychologists and scientists signed a letter in the Guardian calling for action on childrens screen-based lifestyles. A few days later, another 40-odd academics described the fears as moral panic and said that any guidelines needed to build on evidence rather than scaremongering.

Faced with these conflicting expert views, how should concerned parents proceed? Into this maelstrom comes the American psychologist Jean Twenge, who has written a book entitled iGen: Why Todays Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood and What That Means for the Rest of Us.

If the books title didnt make her view clear enough, last weekend an excerpt was published in the American magazine the Atlantic with the emotive headline Have smartphones destroyed a generation? It quickly generated differing reactions that were played out on social media these could be broadly characterised as praise from parents and criticism from scientists. In a phone interview and follow-up emails, Twenge explained her conclusions about the downsides of the connected world for teens, and answered some of her critics.

The Atlantic excerpt from your book was headlined Have smartphones destroyed a generation? Is that an accurate reflection of what you think?
Well, keep in mind that I didnt write the headline. Its obviously much more nuanced than that.

So why did you write this book?
Ive been researching generations for a long time now, since I was an undergraduate, almost 25 years. The databases I draw from are large national surveys of high school and college students, and one of adults. In 2013-14 I started to see some really sudden changes and at first I thought maybe these were just blips, but the trends kept going.

Id never seen anything like it in all my years of looking at differences among generations. So I wondered what was going on.

What were these sudden changes for teens?
Loneliness and depressive symptoms started to go up, while happiness and life satisfaction started to go down. The other thing that I really noticed was the accelerated decline in seeing friends in person it falls off a cliff. Its an absolutely stunning pattern Id never seen anything like that. I really started to wonder, what is going on here? What happened around 2011-2012 [the survey data is a year or two behind] that would cause such sudden changes?

And you concluded these changes were being brought about by increased time spent online?
The high-school data detailed how much time teens spend online on social media and games and I noticed how that correlated with some of these indicators in terms of happiness, depression and so on.

I was curious not just what the correlations were between these screen activities, mental health and wellbeing, but what were the links with non-screen activities, like spending time with friends in person, playing sports, going to religious services, doing homework, all these other things that teens do?

And for happiness in particular, the pattern was so stark. Of the non-screen activities that were measured, they all correlated with greater happiness. All the screen activities correlated with lower happiness.

Youve called these post-millennials the iGeneration. What are their characteristics?
Im defining iGen as those born between 1995 and 2012 that latter date could change based on future data. Im reasonably certain about 1995, given the sudden changes in the trends. It also happens that 1995 was the year the internet was commercialised [Amazon launched that year, Yahoo in 1994 and Google in 1996], so if you were born in that year you have not known a time without the internet.

But the introduction of the smartphone, exemplified by the iPhone, which was launched in 2007, is key?
There are a lot of differences some are large, some are subtle, some are sudden and some had been building for a while but if I had to identify what really characterises them, the first influence is the smartphone.

iGen is the first generation to spend their entire adolescence with the smartphone. This has led to many ripple effects for their wellbeing, their social interactions and the way they think about the world.

Psychology
Psychology professor Jean Twenge. Photograph: Gregory Bull/AP

Why are you convinced they are unhappy because of social media, rather than it being a case of the unhappy kids being heavier users of social media?
That is very unlikely to be true because of very good research on that very question. There is one experiment and two longitudinal studies that show the arrow goes from social media to lower wellbeing and not the other way around. For example, an experiment where people
gave up Facebook for a week and had better wellbeing than those who had not.

The other thing to keep in mind is that if you are spending eight hours a day with a screen you have less time to spend interacting with friends and family in person and we know definitively from decades of research that spending time with other people is one of the keys to emotional wellbeing; if youre doing that less, thats a very bad sign.

A professor at Oxford University tweeted that your work is a non-systematic review of sloppy social science as a tool for lazy intergenerational shaming how do you respond?
It is odd to equate documenting teens mental health issues with intergenerational shaming. Im not shaming anyone and the data I analyse is from teens, not older people criticising them.

This comment is especially strange because this researchers best-known paper, about what he calls the Goldilocks theory, shows the same thing I find lower wellbeing after more hours of screen time. Were basically replicating each others research across two different countries, which is usually considered a good thing. So I am confused.

Your arguments also seem to have been drawn on by the conservative right as ammunition for claims that technology is leading to the moral degradation of the young. Are you comfortable about that?
My analyses look at what young people are saying about themselves and how they are feeling, so I dont think this idea of older people love to whine about the young is relevant. I didnt look at what older people have to say about young people. I looked at what young people are saying about their own experiences and their own lives, compared to young people 10, 20, or 30 years ago.

Nor is it fair or accurate to characterise this as youth-bashing. Teens are saying they are suffering and documenting that should help them, not hurt them. I wrote the book because I wanted to give a voice to iGen and their experiences, through the 11 million who filled out national surveys, to the 200 plus who answered open-ended questions for me, to the 23 I talked to for up to two hours. It had absolutely nothing to do with older people and their complaints about youth.

Many of us have a nagging feeling that social media is bad for our wellbeing, but we all suffer from a fear of missing out.
Teens feel that very intensely, which is one reason why they are so addicted to their phones. Yet, ironically, the teens who spend more time on social media are actually more likely to report feeling left out.

But is this confined to iGeners? One could go to a childs birthday party where the parents are glued to their smartphones and not talking to each other too.
It is important to consider that while this trend also affects adults, it is particularly worrisome for teens because their brain development is ongoing and adolescence is a crucial time for developing social skills.

You say teens might know the right emoji but in real life might not know the right facial expression.
There is very little research on that question. There is one study that looked at the effects of screens on social skills among 11- to 12-year-olds, half of whom used screens at their normal level and half went to a five-day screen-free camp.

Those who attended the camp improved their social skills reading emotions on faces was what they measured. That makes sense thats the social skill you would expect to suffer if you werent getting much in-person social interaction.

So is it up to regulators or parents to improve the situation? Leaving this problem for parents to fix is a big challenge.
Yes it is. I have three kids and my oldest is 10, but in her class about half have a phone, so many of them are on social media already. Parents have a tough job, because there are temptations on the screen constantly.

What advice would you give parents?
Put off getting your child a phone for as long as possible and, when you do, start with one that doesnt have internet access so they dont have the internet in their pocket all the time.

But when your child says, but all my friends have got one, how do you reply?
Maybe with my parents line If your friends all jumped in the lake, would you do it too? Although at that age the answer is usually yes, which I understand. But you can do social media on a desktop computer for a limited time each day. When we looked at the data, we found that an hour a day of electronic device use doesnt have any negative effects on mental health two hours a day or more is when you get the problems.

The majority of teens are on screens a lot more than that. So if they want to use Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook to keep up with their friends activities, they can do that from a desktop computer.

That sounds hard to enforce.
We need to be more understanding of the effects of smartphones. In many ways, parents are worried about the wrong things theyre worried about their kids driving and going out. They dont worry about their kids sitting by themselves in a room with their phone and they should.

Lots of social media features such as notifications or Snapchats Snapstreak feature are engineered to keep us glued to our phones. Should these types of features be outlawed?
Oh man. Parents can put an app [such as Kidslox or Screentime] on their kids phone to limit the amount of time they spend on it. Do that right away. In terms of the bigger solutions, I think thats above my pay grade to figure out.

Youve been accused by another psychologist of cherry-picking your data. Of ignoring, say, studies that suggest active social media use is associated with positive outcomes such as resilience. Did you collect data to fit a theory?
Its impossible to judge that claim she does not provide citations to these studies. I found a few studies finding no effects or positive effects, but they were all older, before smartphones were on the scene. She says in order to prove smartphones are responsible for these trends we need a large study randomly assigning teens to not use smartphones or use them. If we wait for this kind of study, we will wait for ever that type of study is just about impossible to conduct.

She concludes by saying: My suspicion is that the kids are gonna be OK. However, it is not OK that 50% more teens suffer from major depression now versus just six years ago and three times as many girls aged 12 to 14 take their own lives. It is not OK that more teens say that they are lonely and feel hopeless. It is not OK that teens arent seeing their friends in person as much. If we twiddle our thumbs waiting for the perfect experiment, we are taking a big risk and I for one am not willing to do that.

Are you expecting anyone from Silicon Valley to say: How can we help?
No, but what I think is interesting is many tech-connected people in Silicon Valley restrict their own childrens screen use, so they know. Theyre living off of it but they know its effects. It indicates that pointing out the effects of smartphones doesnt make you a luddite.

iGen: Why Todays Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean Twenge is published by Simon & Schuster US ($27) on 22 August

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/13/are-smartphones-really-making-our-children-sad

General election: May falters during challenge over record on public services

PM confronted by nurse over issue of low pay in Question Time special, while Jeremy Corbyn is questioned over Trident and national security

Theresa May came under sustained pressure over the Conservative partys record on public sector pay, mental health services and social care in a combative election edition of BBC1s Question Time broadcast less than a week before polling day.

The prime minister faced a string of awkward questions from members of the public, including a challenge from a nurse, Victoria Davey, who left May faltering after confronting her over the 1% pay increase received by NHS staff.

May said she recognised the hard work people did in the health service but said her party had taken the difficult decision of enforcing pay restraint. Im being honest with you saying we will put more money in, but there isnt a magic money tree that we can shake to get everything we want, she said.

The prime minister claimed wages in the NHS had increased, to which a man in the audience shouted that there had been a real-terms salary drop of 14% since 2010, adding: So dont tell us were getting a pay rise.

One woman from the audience became emotional as she described emerging from a fitness-for-work test in tears after being asked about her suicide attempts. Im not going to make any excuses for the experience youve had, said the prime minister.

Under pressure after refusing to turn up for a TV debate earlier in the week, May was animated at first and rejected an accusation that she had performed a U-turn by calling a snap general election. No its not, sir I had the balls to call an election, she said.

Appearing straight after May on the programme, Jeremy Corbyn also faced hostile questioning, coming under pressure over defence and security.

Pressed over his willingness to push the nuclear button in the face of imminent threat, the Labour leader said: I think the idea of anyone ever using a nuclear weapon anywhere in the world is utterly appalling and terrible. It would result in the destruction of lives and community and environment of millions of people. I would be actively engaged to ensure that danger didnt come about.

Asked again if there were any circumstances in which he would use such a weapon, Corbyn said his party had committed to renew Trident. I would view the idea of using a nuclear weapon as something resulting in a failure of the whole worlds diplomatic system, he said. There has to be no first use. There has to be a process of engagement to bring about ultimately global nuclear disarmament You cannot countenance a world in which we could all be destroyed by nuclear war.

Jeremy
Jeremy Corbyn takes questions from the audience. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

The comments led to a heated exchange, with an exasperated member of the audience asking if Corbyn would not even fire back if attacked.

I would say no first use of the weapon. That has to be the basis of what we do, the Labour leader said.

He then argued: Weve only got one planet, lets get together when we live on it and above all lets not destroy it The most effective use of it is not to use it because it is there.

Corbyn did receive support from one woman in the audience who said she could not understand why others wanted to kill millions of people by discharging a nuclear weapon.

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, said later: There is no point in having a nuclear weapon unless you are willing in principle to deploy it. Im afraid there is a lesson here about Jeremy Corbyns psychology and his politics and his naivety, with which he approaches not just the logic of the nuclear deterrent but also the Brexit negotiations.

Corbyn began his appearance, and received cheers, when he said that he would have preferred to be debating the prime minister head-to-head. He challenged May to spell out the impact of her dementia tax in the final days of the election, saying it was staggering that pensioners would not be told the level of a promised cap on social care costs.

In her session, May was asked why she was not able to provide details of the maximum amount of money people would have to spend on social care, which was only promised after days of backlash against the policy.

May defended her failure to set out additional details, even though the policy is blamed for reducing the Conservatives lead in the polls in the past fortnight. Were talking about two different things. On the floor, its important people have a protection of their savings, which is greater than it is today. Thats why weve set it at 100,000. But on the cap, I think its right we have that consultation, with individuals, with organisations that deal with these issues, with charities to make sure we get that at the right level, she said.

May focused on Brexit and attacks on Labour over the question of leadership two subjects her campaign is planning to concentrate on in the final few days of the campaign.

I called a general election because I believe the British people have a right to vote and say who they want to see leading them through the Brexit process, she said. And I believe they should have a prime minister with a resolute determination to carry out their will.

On Friday, May attempted to court business with a Financial Times interview in which she vowed to consult companies during Brexit negotiations. She promised she would work with business and identify with them what their main concerns are when it comes to designing a new immigration system, and stressed that there would be an implementation phase.

On the BBC1 programme, she hit out at Corbyn with her election mantra that he could only get into Downing Street propped up by the Lib Dems and the Scottish Nationalists, adding: Youd have Diane Abbott, who cant add up around the cabinet table, John McDonnell who is a Marxist, Nicola Sturgeon who wants to break our country up and Tim Farron who wants to take us back into the EU.

The audience challenged Corbyn on Labours policies on a higher minimum wage, corporation tax rises and zero-hour contracts, with one man claiming the agenda would hurt business.

The Labour leader responded by saying there would be support for small firms to cope with the increase in the wages that employees would be entitled to. There are many big companies that could well afford to pay it and shouldnt be just paying the minimum wage, he said.

Small companies could have problems, we fully recognise that, Corbyn added, but said a Labour government would work with them, either to give them tax relief or support in order to make sure the real living wage was paid but they didnt close down as a result.

Asked by student Edward Robbins about the zero-hours contracts that offer casual, flexible work, Corbyn said: Im not going to stop you working, its OK.

Andrew Gwynne, Labours election coordinator said: Its very regrettable the prime minister wouldnt debate with Jeremy and, after tonight, I can see why. She has no answers to the issues that really concern people on the doorstep, the NHS and cuts facing our schools, and far from appearing strong and stable, she was definitely on the back foot answering most of the questions pitched to her.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/02/general-election-may-falters-during-challenge-over-record-on-public-services

Peter Dutton’s office tells Canadian-Australian: ‘go back to US and deal with Trump’

Doug Stetner, who has represented Australia in underwater rugby, called Duttons office to voice support for asylum seekers

A Canadian-born Australian citizen who called Peter Duttons Brisbane office to voice opposition to treatment of asylum seekers says an electorate officer told him to go back to the United States then and deal with Trump.

Doug Stetner, an Australian citizen for 21 years, who represented the national mens team at the 2015 underwater rugby world cup in Colombia, said the response from the immigration ministers staffer was both offensive and comical.

Basically, go back to where you come from. I felt like I was talking to Pauline Hansons party. It was very disappointing, Stetner said.

The Brisbane resident, who has been eligible to vote in the last eight federal elections, said he decided to contact his local MP Ross Vasta after reading of revelations of the strategic worsening of conditions for Nauru and Manus Island detainees.

But Vastas office did not pick up, so Stetner decided to contact the immigration ministers electorate office in Strathpine. He said a male staffer fielded the call.

Stetner, 55, a university computer systems administrator, said he was polite but firm. Basically I said I disagreed with the way they were handling things over there [on Nauru and Manus Island] and they should bring all of these people back to Australia until they can determine whats going to go on with them.

Douglas
Douglas Stetner (front, left) and his colleagues in the Australian underwater rugby team. Photograph: Douglas Stetner

He said the staffer told him he did not know what it was like in the detention centres as reporters are not telling you whats real.

I said, If you let the reporters in there, we might get whats real, but theyre blocking the media so you just get to a point where you dont trust the government on anything theyre saying, Stetner said.

Stetner told the electorate officer it made him embarrassed or ashamed to be an Australian to see this going on in Australian-run detention centres. And then he came out with, Well, why dont you just go back to the US then and deal with Trump?

I was a bit surprised by that. I said I was an Australian citizen and Canadian, not American. Anyway, they represent us and all I can do is call them and tell them this is what Im thinking.

Guardian Australia twice contacted Duttons electorate office to seek the staffers account of the conversation. Two male staffers who answered calls denied having a conversation with Stetner.

Neither the office, nor Duttons ministerial media spokesman, also contacted by Guardian Australia, provided a response.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/may/20/peter-duttons-office-tells-canadian-australian-go-back-to-us-and-deal-with-trump

Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young peoples mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young peoples mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young peoples feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate childrens and young peoples body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

Its interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young peoples mental health and wellbeing. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other peoples health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UKs psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media good and bad to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.

Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.

However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. Its also important to recognise that simply protecting young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.

Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

May, who has made childrens mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social medias damaging effects in her shared society speech in January, saying: We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.

In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health

Postnatal depression I felt disembodied for so long but suddenly I was back in my own body

Jessica Friedmann talks to Viv Groskop about the terrifying years she experienced after the birth of her son

Jessica Friedmann thought she was managing well after the birth of her son. Then suddenly her thoughts took a dark turn. I had to come back into hospital two weeks later for a checkup and I realised that all I wanted to do was get out of the moving car. I was feeling as though I couldnt handle being alive any more and that it would be better for Owen if I wasnt.

Friedmann, 30, has written an extraordinary account of extreme postnatal depression as seen from the eye of the storm. She lives in Canberra, Australia, with her husband, Mike, 34, who is in the Australian air force. Their son, Owen, is four. The period of feeling foggy, as she calls it, dates it back to Owens early weeks. Friedmanns experience is at the sharp end of things. While the NHS suggests that the baby blues usually dont last more than two weeks after giving birth, Friedmann was ill for, she estimates, two and a half to three years.

She says cautiously that now she is fine. She had anticipated that she might feel fragile during her pregnancy. But when I was pregnant, I felt strong and vibrant, she says. I had experienced depression in the past and I was worried that I would feel resentful about sharing my body with another human being. You know, the idea of feeling colonised, of having another person growing inside me But it felt intuitively right and I felt safe.

Similarly she imagined she felt confident during and after the birth, despite some complications. I had to have a caesarean because he was breech I had a haemorrhage. But afterwards I thought I was OK. It turned out my uterus was inflamed and so I was on a course of antibiotics.

As her physical symptoms improved, her mental health deteriorated. A couple of weeks after he was born, I went from feeling euphoric to feeling good to feeling not good to feeling desperate quite quickly. Antidepressants helped, but did not fix everything. That got me up to half-speed. I thought that was as good as it was going to get. I felt so slow and tired.

Jessica was part of pilot programme in Australia where mothers can be monitored by a psychiatrist after birth. This helped to sort out her medication. Because she had had depression before, she was also seeing a therapist. But despite all this, she still felt at a loss as a new mother: You can read as much as you want, but you dont know what having a child is going to feel like. I didnt know it was ordinary to be in that much pain or to be so tired that I just couldnt function.

But while these things are normal and usually fairly transient for new parents, she realised that her symptoms were more serious. For me the key tell for depression is that I stop sleeping. Its a kind of interrupted sleep. In the early days, instead of getting sleep between Owens feeds, I would stay up all night and be awake. At the time I thought it made sense. That kind of sleeplessness is common if youre experiencing depression. Its a sleeplessness that is like agitation.

It got worse as she found herself heading into the world of what therapists call postpartum mood disorder. I started having intrusive thoughts. Although at the time I didnt have the language to express that. Its compulsive thinking about violence towards yourself or towards your child. You are thinking things that you dont want to think. But the majority of new parents dont have those thoughts. Or at least Ihope they dont.

Jessica
Jessica Friedmann. Photograph: Heather Lighton/Scribe

Her mother took over the care of her son for a while. At one time Friedmann had the urge to walk out of the window. Recovery was slow: Depression is very isolating, so I felt so grateful that I had so many people around me who Icould ask for help.

Friedmann realised she was getting better when she felt more in control of her mind. It was almost like a light came on. I had felt disembodied for so long and suddenly it was like I was back in my own body. I felt as though I were present in all my senses in a way that I hadnt felt for years. It was like falling in love or wearing glasses for the first time.

She now has a close, easy relationship with her son, but still worries about the impact on him. I think hes a very resilient child. From the beginning when I was in such a bad way, I just followed him and his needs. Ididnt try to put him in a routine. We had a period of separation at one point. But theres a lot of love and trust between us.

She says cautiously that anyone who is depressed should also get help for whoever is looking after them: Mike didnt talk for years about whathe was going through. Because hewas so worried about me. But if youare the caretaker for someone witha psychiatric illness, looking after yourself is not selfish.

Her advice to her earlier self would be to be more realistic about the caesarean. I wish I had known more about the effect it has on your body. The whole too posh to push thing makes it seem like its supposed to be awalk in the park compared with avaginal birth. I didnt really realise that its a major abdominal surgery thattakes six weeks to recover from. Ithurt a lot. It was scary.

Most of all, though, she says she wishes she had been kinder to herself. Although when you are in the grip of a psychological crisis, the idea of having a self is nebulous. And the idea of kindness to that self even more so. I look back at those months now and its all just a fog. I wish I had known how to simultaneously be experiencing a psychological crisis and be an advocate for myself. But that is almost impossible. I think mental illness is such a bear trap because in any other crisis you can articulate what is going on. But I couldnt. She sighs, realising the impossibility of what she is wishing for. Then she jokes: Maybe a series of flashcards would have helped?

She hopes her book about this experience will help others feel able to say Im sick when things become too difficult to manage. Her story, she says, is partly one about severe postnatal depression but its also about the complicated business of starting out in family life while feeling overwhelmed something which happens to everyone who has a baby.

Theres nothing straightforward about parenting, she says. Its grief, sorrow, exultation.

Things That Helped by Jessica Friedmann (Scribe, 12.99). To order a copy for 11.04,go tobookshop.theguardian.comorcall the Guardian Bookshop on0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of 1.99.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/13/postnatal-depression-i-felt-disembodied-for-so-long-but-suddenly-i-was-back-in-my-own-body