Over the past few decades, our access to technology has completely changed how we interact with the world. Just thirty years ago, you would pull over to ask a stranger for directions or actually call someone that you wanted to talk to. Back then, dating didn’t start with a swipe right, we would meet in person, and you would have to pick up a newspaper to stay informed on what was happening in the world.
Today, everything happens through a screen and the internet. We use the GPS on our phones to get to the local coffee shop we’ve driven to hundreds of times, and we exclusively text even our closest friends because an actual phone call feels like an unprovoked attack on someone’s privacy.
We can now swipe through hundreds of potential partners on dating apps and read through hundreds of salacious headlines on news apps. Our workday consists of back-to-back meetings over Zoom, and we get a behind-the-scenes-type highlight reel of everyone’s life through Instagram.
Our relationship with technology has changed a lot in just thirty years, and alongside it, we’ve seen a significant decline in our mental health. Of course, correlation does not equal causation. We can’t pin the blame of our mental health crisis squarely on technology and the internet, but to deny that it has had any impact seems irresponsible at best and extremely dangerous at worst.
Sadly, our younger generations are not immune to technology’s impact on mental health. At younger and younger ages, kids are being introduced to tablets and smartphones, plugging them into the virtual world sooner than any past generations. And with that earlier introduction to technology has once again come a steep decline in our kids’ mental health.
Ending childhood depression means ending a very lucrative market for prescription drug companies
The problem has reached a point now where a panel of health experts just this week recommended for the first time that primary care doctors screen all children ages 8 to 18 for anxiety. The panel also recommended that all adolescents ages 12 to 18 be screened for childhood depression.
In theory, this seems like a promising step in the right direction. Suppose a primary care physician can identify signs of anxiety or depression early on in a child’s life. In that case, they could suggest preventative measures and address the problem before it becomes more severe with age. However, primary care physicians in our current system are already strapped for time when it comes to their patients. Pediatricians usually only spend a few minutes with their patients throughout the year.
The other problematic question is: what kind of preventative treatment our healthcare system will incentivize once this early screening identifies anxiety and depression in these kids’ lives? Will they suggest that kids spend more time outside participating in physical activity and having meaningful connections with their peers, or will this simply open the door for Big Pharma to start medicating kids with anti-depressants earlier in their lives?
The key takeaway? The fact that kids are now going to be screened for childhood depression as early as 12 is a sobering indicator of just how much of a problem our mental health crisis has become. Children at that age should be full of nothing but joy and happiness. How can you be depressed if you don’t even pay taxes yet?
On a very serious note, it is up to us as parents to make sure we set up our future generations for success when it comes to their health. Our healthcare system is not going to keep us or our families healthy. That is a responsibility that falls on us and us alone.
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