Emotion
Societal Challenges to Mental Health

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many existing problems. It has also shown how vulnerable each of us is in terms of our physical and mental health. Some experts foresee that the mental health impact of the pandemic will last longer than the physical health impact. Even in non-pandemic times, societal pressures aggravate existing mental health challenges, or give rise to new ones.

Time famine

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This has been described as a major social problem in modern societies. We are burdened with the task of individual time management as time culture is increasingly “deregulated”. Increasing numbers of people complain about acceleration in work as well as private life, with many of us always feeling rushed. Data from sociologists backs this feeling up, showing that over 30 years of modernization has produced only a small increase in time prosperity, benefitting primarily men. Women’s access to leisure on a societal scale, has decreased.

Sandwich Generation

Caught in the middle: For middle-aged people, who support both their parents and their children, whether financially, physically or emotionally, the struggles are compounded. They are embedded in multi-generational responsibilities like juggling a full-time job with unpaid roles as caregiver to children and parents. Ever larger numbers of grandparents are coming under this umbrella, as they are increasingly being relied upon for childcare for their grandchildren, as well as continuing their own jobs or caring for their aged parents.

Stressed Woman

Digital Stress & Anxiety

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This is a very real phenomenon faced by our generation that is always connected and available via multiple media. The all-pervasiveness of smartphones can lead to an inability to switch-off, causing low levels of anxiety, distraction and a constant need to be up to date or connected online. Ironically, these feelings of connection are seldom meaningful enough to have beneficial effects on our feeling of connectedness. With online content moving faster, a person scrolling social media is exposed to different images and sounds that change by the second. Sensory overload follows when the brain is unable to process all the information it is exposed to in that time, causing us to feel overwhelmed. Lastly, upward social comparison occurs when we compare ourselves to someone we perceive to be superior. With social media providing unlimited opportunities for people to present their lives as perfect, negative feelings that decrease our self-esteem and psychological well-being are becoming increasingly common. On the other hand, an awareness of undesirable life-events in others’ lives, i.e., the cost of caring, is associated with higher psychological stress, especially for women.

Climate Change

A Global Risk Report predicted that “Climate action failure” is the most impactful long-term risk of our time. Today, psychologists use the term climate grief to refer to feelings of sadness, loss, and anxiety in response to climate devastation, described as a response to the loss of cherished species, ecosystems, and landscapes due to climate change. Already exposed to environmental degradation, the additional burden of the financial crisis, rising inequality and other social crises, this generation faces serious challenges to education, economic prospects and mental health.   

Image by Matt Palmer

How can we deal with Mental Health Challenges?