The lure of thousands of "likes" and comments on pictures have become an obsession for the younger generation, who've become emotionally attached to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other popular social media sites. On Saturday, girls were urged to not seek attention from this "fake reality" at the Girls Talk event, which addressed ways to deal with depression.
The event's feature speaker was Dr Crystal Skeete-St Hillaire, who spoke of the dangers of seeking validation from strangers and peers on social media.
The two-hour discussion, hosted by Youth for Christ TT's social action arm Heartline at the Victor E Bruce Complex in Scarborough, engaged over 30 young women on ways to help them identify areas in their lives that negatively affect their mental health. The youths were encouraged to find support in challenging times and develop strategies to deal with rejection and depression in a healthy way.
Skeete-St Hillaire warned the girls about the dangers of being "hooked" on wanting validation by their peers on social media, which can develop a damaging perception of themselves.
She said, “Social media has the impact that what persons put forward seems to be real. We post all the good times and best pictures but we don’t post the dark, down times. This sells and paints a fake reality. This causes others to look at a fake reality and feel depressed because their lives are no way close to that kind of perfection. Then they ask themselves, why is everyone’s life on social media perfect but not theirs, leading them into a depressed state. When we don’t get the likes and shares, we don't feel like we are good enough.”
She also addressed the effect social media has on the mental health of young people, where it can engender feelings of jealousy and inadequacy. She said someone might look at another person their same age flaunting wealth which might not even be their own.
"But you are left trying to find ways to get the latest car, trying to make yourself good enough. This is all because we want to fit into a world we were not made to be in competition with.”
Skeete-St Hillaire told the girls not to judge themselves by what others think, feel and say about them on social media or their self-worth will be determined by others.
“If we don’t check ourselves or if we don’t invest positively into our self-esteem, we could end up being very depressed. Studies show teenagers who spend at least two hours on social media have higher risk of anxiety, depression and even suicide. Depression is among the most common illnesses and it’s starting to rise where approximately 300 million people suffer from depression. It’s a fact, depression at its worst can lead to suicide and women are affected more by it than men."
She said in Tobago most of the cases of depression involve women who are under 25. She believes the increasing rate of depression and suicide in TT would reduce only when more young people become more involved in serious discussions on the matter.
“Many of the persons who commit suicide have a diagnosable and treatable mental illness at the time of their deaths and the leading cause is depression – second is substance abuse. How does this relate to Trinidad and Tobago? San Fernando General Hospital revealed some statistics and there are 100 new cases assigned to their mental health clinic every month, majority of which are young people and it’s not different from our other hospitals.”