The Hope Necklace

Owning our mental health challenges just got easier with an app that helps youth rank their mental wellness and connect directly with their health care professionals.

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Dr. Stan Kutcher
The challenge and promise of youth mental health care: two sides of the same coin
Young people are deeply immersed in a life phase where their moods are more intense and rapidly changing; where social situations are new and challenging, their relationships with parents are more difficult to navigate and where peer pressures are more pronounced.  And, while they’re going through this period of surging psychological growth they encounter the time in their lives where the risk for mental disorders, substance abuse, accidents and poor risk management are at their zenith.

  This difficulty can be pronounced if someone is experiencing mild to moderate symptoms as the disorder develops or if they are embroiled in the middle of life challenges that cause excessive stress or push the limits of their coping strategies. Something as simple as a poor grade given on a paper might trigger an amplified stress reaction for a teen that struggles with a mental disorder.

 

Electronic communication technology can exacerbate and intensify these difficulties and brings its own challenges as young people learn how and how not to use these new tools.  The emerging negative impact of cyberbullying, sexting and the capacity for 24/7 social engagement can lead to a perfect storm that might seem overwhelming at times.

Did you know that TELUS WISE is a free educational program available to all Canadians – focusing on Internet and Smartphone safety/security to help keep families safer from online criminal activity such as financial fraud and cyberbullying. Check it out here: https://wise.telus.com/en/.

Conversely, this same technology can provide solutions to many of these challenges, especially those related to the identification and ongoing treatment of mental disorders.  As tools used to improve mental health literacy, these innovations can help teach young people about normal and expected life changes and assist them in being able to differentiate the usual emotional variations from a possible mental disorder.  They can also be used as a means to obtain access to trusted and useful resources that can be used to buffer these storms. An example of this would be the ability to connect directly with their health care provider during a difficult time or simply to monitor daily moods.

If the young person develops a mental disorder, this technology can be used to provide tools that can enhance and improve self-care and illness management strategies that can help improve symptoms and enhance outcomes.  This technology can also provide rapid access to professional care as well as enable ongoing support and helpful psychological interventions, available when needed.

So here we are in the first quarter of the 21st century.  Dealing with the challenges and the promises of novel technologies that have both the possibility of leading to further challenges and the probability of leading to positive outcomes.  Quite the paradox.  Quite the time to be a teenager.


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