HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Teenagers and social media. They're on it, but should they be? And what's the potential impact? Social media represents a unique form of human interaction that has taken on a huge role in the lives of teens with possible effects on their mental health. Dr. Anisha Abraham, Acting Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Children's National Hospital says that making sure that we take the time to get young people into resources before it becomes a life-threatening emergency is so key.
Connecting with teens is the most important thing adults can do to promote their well-being, whether they have mental health issues or not. Dr. Abraham explained, "Fostering relationships, even having one or two adults that can really believe in young people and support them, can be really, really helpful."
The American Academy of Pediatrics said when it comes to managing teen mental health, preventing problems is always better than treating them. The American Academy of Pediatrics also said young people spend a lot of time on social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, Tiktok, and others. One study found that 90% of teens aged 13 to 18 use multiple platforms, with more than 60% engaging with social media every day.
Dr. Delaney Ruston, whose own child struggles with mental health, said, "When a human is not feeling well, they lose their motivation to want to do things that used to give them pleasure."
"Look for changes in your child's behavior. Are they irritable? Are they are they losing weight? Maybe their sleep patterns have changed. Have their grades dropped in school?" Dr. Jeanette Nesheiwat says that these are some of the tell-tale signs.
Kellie Zuba, who's helped her suicidal daughter navigate six hospitalizations, agrees. "Don't accept the, 'I'm fine, mom.' You know, watch their behavior. Watch that because it can happen to anyone," said Zuba.
For teen girls, and the people who love them, they are incredibly resilient. But doctors say they cannot overcome a mental health crisis on their own without some form of help.
Mental health resources:
National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988 or use the chat box at 988lifeline.org/chat. You can also text “MHA” to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. Warmlines are an excellent place for non-crisis support.
Crisis Services North Alabama Helpline: 256-716-1000 or 1-800-691-8426
The Trevor Project: Chat, call, or text