Published on May 1, 2013 | by Cecilia Sundström

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Facebook’s mental consequences

Facebook health

[gif: Mahan Malik and Jon Durr]

When the distressing elements of student life are overwhelming, there is help to get. At the University of the Art’s Mental Health Services, students can seek help for depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts – and Facebook.

Anne-Marie Bradley is one of the counsellors at LCC, where she meets troubled students on a daily basis. She says there’s a stigma around mental health and a pressure to be perfect, reinforced by the glossy image of friends and classmates broadcasted online.

“Facebook has a lot to answer for. The amount of time it comes up in sessions! You look at people’s profiles where they try to show they have the happiest, shiniest life, but reality is something different,” she says.

Facebook is not the issue, according to believe Anne-Marie, but a way of promoting competition and creating a false sense of reality.

The decline in student mental health is supported by 2011 figures from the Office for National Statistics. For the past five years, there has been a 50% increase in suicide rates among students.

For UAL students, common problems include feelings of not fitting in and finding it hard to adapt to life in London. A lot of students experience a missing sense of belonging and the UAL college layout makes students feel they are not part of the university.

“People worry about things like managing the complexity of life in London: having to earn money, having to study, having to be friends, having to be on Facebook and about what you are going to do when you finish, when there are no jobs. It is a challenging situation to be in,” Anne-Marie says.

According to the NHS, students are one of the most sensitive and exposed groups when it comes to mental well-being. Normalising issues that affect stress and mental health would help students open up about their problems, says Anne-Marie.

She says: “People come here and talk about anything from depression to issues with family relationships, sexuality and cultural issues. I feel we are able to help people – we never turn anyone away.”

Listen to UAL students sharing their thoughts on Facebook and social media, in a voxpop, below.

 

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