During the past few weeks, social media and its relationship to teens’ mental health has been the lead story on almost every newscast. Marybet Melendez, a licensed professional counselor at Muleshoe Independent School District, addressed some of those issues.
“Social media can have a negative effect on our self-image, partly because we’re exposed to more content at a faster rate compared to other forms of media,” she said. “Girls may have a negative body image or make comparisons. We’ve been exposed to negative things before, but with social media, it’s almost instantly. Not just for youth, but for everybody.”
Melendez agrees that as parents, it’s important to set some limits and educate children about the dangers of social media, letting them know the risks that are out there.
More importantly, Melendez urges families to spend more time with their kids.
“We need to have more family time, interacting one-on-one, doing more together as a family,” she said. “Often, we’re with our kids, but we don’t put our cell phones down. Parents need to resist the temptation to pick up the cell phone. We need to give them our undivided attention without a cell phone present.”
A licensed professional counselor with a masters in education and counseling, Melendez has been counseling for about seven years. She worked with Catholic Charities before coming to MISD.
Melendez also spoke about the effects of the pandemic on adolescents and children.
“Research shows that children and adolescents have more depressive and anxious symptoms compared to pre-pandemic,” she said. “That’s anywhere, worldwide. It’s all the fear of the unknown and the stressors that come with economic changes. A family member may be ill or become unemployed. Some kids have trouble academic-wise, adjusting to the changes such as having to learn online.”
Signs that a child or teen may be in trouble vary.
“Changes in behavior may include a loss of interest in things that used to interest them, withdrawing or isolating, self harm, changes in sleep patterns, either sleeping too much or too little, and talking about dying or wanting to hurt oneself,” Melendez said.
According to a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline link provided by Melendez: “Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.”
Warning signs listed by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline follow:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be accessed at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/how-we-can-all-prevent-suicide/.