Mental HealthSpiritualityTechnology

Teens: Mental Health, Technology and Spirituality

By December 10, 2016 No Comments

In collaboration with SusanReynolds.org and the Wheelhouse at the Bradford Mill, we’re introducing a unique multi-generational collaborative model for the Concord/Carlisle, MA community bringing together teens/20s with adults at the intersection of mental health, technology and spirituality.

In this first conversation in the series, I coalesce current research and cite experts: Dan Siegel, Larry Rosen, Simon Sinek, and Lisa Miller as I share the speaking platform with teens who have suffered through mental health crises. As the speakers and audience engage in conversation, new insights, understandings and solutions will emerge. More importantly this type of discussion removes some of the individual stigma suffered from mental illness, to uncovering a societal illness that impacts all teens/20s. The end result? Strategies to move all youth from surviving to thriving.

One of my inspirations for this model comes from a Simon Sinek’s analysis of the Millennials in the Workplace. He calls on cooperations to right some wrongs he sees, but I say we add our communities of parents, schools and colleges to his solution.

MY ADDITIONS TO SIMON SINEK’S RESPONSE:

It’s not just corporations that need to step up, it’s all of us, teens/20s extended community of family, friends, schools, universities, faith institutions and service leaders.

TEEN MENTAL HEALTH:

STANFORD PROVOST:
Increasingly we are seeing students struggling with mental health concerns ranging from self-esteem issues and developmental disorders to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-mutilation behavior, schizophrenia, and suicidal behavior. (p. 8)

PRICE OF PRIVILEGE by Madeline Levine
Preteens from affluent, well-educated families… experience among the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, somatic complaints, and unhappiness of any group of children in this country. As many as 22 percent of adolescent girls from financially comfortable families suffer from clinical depression.

IN A RECENT STUDY put out by the American board of pediatrics the instance of a major depressive episode in adolescents and young adults has increased 37% between 2005 and 2014.

TECHNOLOGY:

POWER DOWN TO POWER UP. What does that mean? In essence, there are positives and negatives to technology, the promises and the perils have been espoused throughout history. Even Thoreau warned, “Men have become the tool of their tools,” and today:

CAN we POWER DOWN the more detrimental and mindless aspects of technology and POWER UP the more productive and mindful ones.

If this is the case, one question is what role does technology play in anxiety and depression? These are some of the questions I’ve asked over the last two years.

  1. Do you experience angst and panic when you can’t find your phone? (This could be Nomophobia)
  2. Do you feel physical anxiety when you haven’t checked your phone in awhile? (This could be due to dopamine decrease or the biological internal urge )
  3. Do you use it right before you go to sleep ?(Compromised sleep/Sleep deprivation)
  4. How often do you check your phone during the day? (Some check it up to 150 times)
  5. How many different windows and Apps do you open in an hour while doing homework? (Myth of Multi-Tasking)
  6. How often do you leave one task for another? How long does it take you to come back to original task? (Rapid Task Switching inhibits focus, increases anxiety)
  7. Do you Feel an intimacy with your device —  for example do you sleep with it, or check it in the middle of the night or when you first get out of bed.  (Sleep Deprivation)

All of these will contribute to a decreased physical and emotional sense of well being.

TECHNOLOGY STRATEGIES (BLOGS TO FOLLOW)

  1. Strategies for Safe Driving
  2. Strategies for Completing Critical Assignments
  3. Strategies for Uninterrupted Socializing
  4. Strategies for Geeing a good Night’s Sleep

SPIRITUALITY/SPIRIT

In her latest book, The Spiritual Child: The New Science of Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving, Lisa Miller, PhD shares 15 years of scientific research proving children who grow up with an active, positive personal relationship with spirituality have a 60% less chance of recurring depression, are 80% less likely to have dangerous or unprotected sex, and 40% less likely to use and abuse substances, as well as less likely to engage in cutting or suffer from an eating disorder.

When I share these statistics, many ask, “What do you mean by spirituality?” Within Miller’s definition, an atheist can just as easily be spiritual as a devout follower of a religion. Miller defines natural spirituality as such:

While organized religions can clearly play a role in spiritual development, the primary engine that drives natural spirituality is innate, biological, and developmental: first an inborn faculty for transcendent connection, then a developmental impetus to make it our own, and the resulting deep personal relationship with the transcendent through nature, God, or the universal force. (9)

Many would call such a deep personal relationship with the transcendent an awakening, but not all children and teens experience this developmentally important connection.

Miller compares adolescents with a developed spiritual core and those without one, and the results are striking:

Miller’s book encourages parents to foster the adolescent brain’s readiness for transcendence. When teens have a strong spiritual core, they possess “inherent worth, an identity of meaning and purpose, and work that includes a calling and contribution.” In essence they feel a place in the world as always connected and an existential reality that is purposeful (Miller 246). A teen with this strength goes to college with skills very different from a teen who does not have a developed spiritual core.

According to Miller’s research, teens lacking an innate sense of connection to the transcendent see a self defined by abilities and an identity judged on acquiring success. Work is based on talent and gains, and their place in the world as ultimately alone. Their existential reality is that of a random world. (Miller, 246)

My question is what happens when the pressure of high school, getting into college, being “good enough” as well as what happens when these college students arrive their freshman year without the solidity of this spiritual core and are suffering from depression, substance abuse, high risk behavior, an eating disorder, cutting, or other mental health issues.

The teen/young adult is in college, lacks parental support in the immediate vicinity and feels adrift in a lonely world. In addition, the cumulative impact of digital distraction may have further weakened the power of the pre-frontal lobe to withstand the fight, flight or freeze dual impact of anxiety and technology.

SPIRITUALITY/SPIRIT STRATEGIES

Now what? I have one proposed solution and you’re going to hear of a variation on the theme tonight.

If these college teens are taken through a process to “Power Down for Presence, Passion and Purpose,” they may develop the missing spiritual core. Through one or all of these steps, the adolescent may experience the interconnection of a transcendence to self, to God, to a community, and/or the Earth, and a shift may occur where the student finds meaningfulness. Ideally this process serves the greater good as they feel the deep interdependence of a global community.

 

 

 

 

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