Mental health decline with the rise of social media

Surprise guest, Representative Brownley, sharing insight to how social media is a powerful tool and how people, especially teens, must be careful with how they use their access.

Yumnah Shoaib

Surprise guest, Representative Brownley, sharing insight to how social media is a powerful tool and how people, especially teens, must be careful with how they use their access.

The Simi Valley Youth Council held a forum on Friday, January 20, covering teenage mental health, and how its decline is associated with social media usage. The main audience for this event included various middle schools, and high school students in Simi Valley, but also the police department and some elected officials.

The Youth Council is an advisory board associated with the Simi Valley City Council that focuses on issues affecting youth in the community. Abhishek Jagannathan, a junior from Santa Susana high school announced the program, alongside his panel moderators Ella McCrossan (Royal High School) and Ashlyn Ro (Simi Valley High School).

Before starting the main discussion, the Royal JROTC performed and played the Pledge of Allegiance for the audience.

The event opened up with remarks from Megan Gately, and a surprise speech from United States Representative, Julia Brownley about the importance of social media in its correlation to mental illness. Brownley said during her speech, “social media is a powerful tool, I have seen firsthand how it can be used for political stances…. But we can grow less and become less accepting of others[with its usage].”

The panel led by McCrossan and Ro included words from invited speakers who specialize in social media, mental health, and psychology. The speakers are as listed: Marc Berkman the CEO of the Organization for Social Media Safety, Serena Nguyen a SVUSD Social Worker, Dr. Klive a Pepperdine professor, and Supervisor Janet Parvin, a Ventura County Board member. During the discussion, Ro and McCrossan alternated asking questions to the panelists, some relating to everyone and some relating to individual panelists.

Most questions were surrounded by the basis of “how does social media affect people” to which each panelist responded but the answer that stuck with the audience was Dr. Klives’s question to the question. Dr. Klive asked the audience what they believed the most played YouTube video was. He revealed that the answer is the music video for the song “Baby Shark” from the channel Cocomelon. While this answer erupted laughter from the audience, Klive shared that the reasoning behind its popularity is due to the fact that over the pandemic parents were unable to entertain their children with the outside world, so they used this channel, and others to stimulate their kids.

Other questions that were posed were under the premise of social media safety- to which Berkman shared that he offers resources for parents to utilize to ensure their children are safe on the internet. Under this same question the SVUSD social worker, Serena Nguyen offered the stance that people should limit their social media usage to one hour per day. Her reasoning is that using social media affects your brain, and leads to a decline in your mental health because the more a person is online, the more they start to compare themselves to others.

As the panel progressed, topics of depression, suicide, human trafficking, and eating disorders were bought up. The panelists shared the sentiment that “you are someone to somebody” and that you[the audience] should always be cautious and make sure you know you are always loved. Under the topic of suicide, Nguyen shared that over the pandemic she was treating an Asian American student who was afraid to come back to in-person school after the attacks on East Asians arose from the spread of Covid-19. This all-too-relatable story was shared because Nguyen wanted to explain to the audience that overuse of social media will show you the dark parts of the world, that someone who is already battling an illness doesn’t need to see.

Eventually, the panel closed with questions from the audience- which related back to the mental illness aspect of the discussion. One question posed by an anonymous crowd member was, “How do I help my friend if they’re going through depression and has suicidal thoughts” to this each of the members responded but Supervisor Janet Parvin offered insight that if it is a nonemergent case, you can speak to the school and find help, but if it is an emergency tell your parents or their parents, and call the police if there is a risk that the other person may be suicidal.”

During these panelists’ discussions, some audience members shared privately that they felt this discussion did not thoroughly explain mental illness and did not fully share the voice of a mentally ill person. They explained that it felt that the panelists were “solely blaming social media when that isn’t the full story.”

Though this event is not without its flaws [as pointed out by audience members], it was extremely beneficial to the youth. It is important to discuss mental health and how it relates to social media usage within school boundaries and to extend discussions into a home environment, as well.