In an attempt to remove the stigma against mental health, OCA Sacramento hosted a Social Media & Mental Wellness event at California Northstate University College of Medicine. The event was held on October 10 at 6 PM and lasted for two hours. There, attendees heard from various mental professionals in the Sacramento region. They also shared stories and struggles about mental illness in the Asian/Pacific Islander community.
It was the first time OCA Sacramento had hosted an event like this in Elk Grove. Attending the event was OCA President Jinky Dolar, who ensured that the event ran smoothly. A warm, funny, and passionate person, Dolar was a presence that drove the event.
Notable speakers were Jessica Wharton, Dr. Charles Panadero, and Dr. Bhavin Parikh. Each speaker brought their own perspectives and fields of study into the discussion of social media and mental illness. Each spoke of how to navigate between these two subjects. Topics like suicide prevention, breaking cultural and intergenerational barriers when children should be allowed to have a social media account, new social media apps, and more were discussed during the two-hour event.
The Importance Of A Supportive Community
Dr. Bhavin Parikh works in Psychiatry and told the audience of various stories regarding mental health. Parikh spoke of how important it was for a community to accept that mental illness is not something “to get over” and such logic does more harm than good. He reminisces about a female patient who took her own life despite seeking help because her own family dismissed her mental illness. Parikh is still haunted by the case and many others, where deaths could have been prevented if family and friends were more understanding. Fortunately, he told another story where a patient was accepted by his family and was in recovery for his mental illness.
Bullying In Social Media
Jessica Wharton is a licensed therapist and a Bullying Specialist for the Sacramento Unified School District. She discussed several apps that parents should be careful about, notably Snapchat. Many users are not aware of the SnapMap feature. This feature allows friends (and even the public) to see a user’s location by posting through SnapChat. Fortunately, the feature is turned off by default. The audience was not even aware that such a feature existed. Additionally, the audience was awed at the fact that SnapChat could determine if someone was walking, driving or hanging out with friends.
Wharton also examined Ghost Apps, which are apps that are designed to hide other apps on a person’s phone. These icons are meant to look ordinary and boring, like a music note or a document, so parents wouldn’t suspect the child of wrongdoing. According to research, a child should not have a social media account until they are 13.
Wharton also talked about what actions are constituted as bullying. She states that three criteria must be met: there is an imbalance of power in the relationship, there is intent from the bully to harm the victim, and the actions must be repetitive. She also touched on cyberbullying and its influence on social media. Sadly, Wharton has also seen cases of parents cyberbullying other students, breaking the misconception that students only bully other students.
Children And Spiking Suicide Rates
Dr. Charles Panadero is trained in Pediatrics, Adult Psychiatry, and Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Panadero’s presentation considered how social media influenced suicide rates. As someone who works with children, he is devastated when children between the ages of 10 to 14 are taking their lives at alarming rates. While he admits that suicide has spiked since the birth of social media, data cannot confirm that social media is to blame. More research, Panadero states, is needed to find out why suicide rates are going up. In his personal opinion, Panadero believes that it is because the internet has removed the physical connection in communication. While social media has made it easier for people to connect, life on social media is doctored and sculpted. It can be difficult to show vulnerability or make emotional connections.
Towards the end of the event, the audience was asked to have round table discussions. These talks revolved around the stigmas and barriers that the Asian community faces in mental health. Each table was assigned a mental health clinician who led the discussions. Afterward, a Q&A was held between the audience and speakers. Despite the event focusing on the negatives of social media, the speakers also wanted to impress upon the audience that there are benefits to social media. Many of the audience members knew about the event through Facebook, for example. Instead, the event was meant to help people whose problems stem from social media. Much like a lot of things in the world, social media is meant to be a tool, not a reflection of one’s self-worth or value.