Technology has taken mental health problems to a “new level” among young people, an expert has warned.
Cathy Sousa, chairwoman of the Bermuda Counsellors Association, said more should be done to help young people understand the potential dangers of technology. Ms Sousa, who spoke to The Royal Gazette as the island marks Counselling Awareness Month, said: “The triggers for young people have multiplied. Technology is taking it to a whole new level.”
She said young people who send explicit pictures of themselves that get shared among their peers can feel “like their life is ruined” and she warned that this can lead to anxiety and even suicidal feelings.
Ms Sousa said: “It’s a double whammy for the young person — they’ve got the humiliation among their peers and then they have to deal with the repercussions from their parents. And it’s a real challenge to communicate with young people around what they feel is the norm.”
Ms Sousa said young people could benefit from exploring the consequences of their behaviour in small discussion groups in schools with a counsellor present.
“You do have kids that behave badly and then have regrets about that but the damage is already been done. So both victims and bullies could really benefit from having a conversation about the consequences.”
The counsellor with Benedict Associates Ltd said many parents were not able to understand why children interact electronically the way they do.
“It’s just so difficult to see why your child would be sexting, for example, at 14 years old.
“Counsellors play a role in doing family work in that circumstance because they need to work with parents in how to manage those types of problems without exacerbating what the child is experiencing already emotionally.”
Ms Sousa said relationship problems with children or in a significant relationship are the main reason people seek out counselling, along with work stress.
“Jobs are not out there in the same way so leaving your job is not an option for a lot of people.
“They are struggling financially as it is, so finding a way to cope with their work circumstances is critical to their mental health.”
She added: “If we can assist people in managing life circumstances or altering their life circumstances so that they are more content and more satisfied, then everybody benefits.
“When you have personal concerns, it affects you in the workplace and it affects your relationships with everybody you come in contact with. Assisting with that contributes significantly to a healthier community.”
Ms Sousa explained that counselling is “a professional relationship that seeks to promote the growth and development of individuals and families”.
But she said stigma around mental health was still a “huge concern” and people were reluctant to seek treatment.
Ms Sousa said: “Understanding the myth of the mind-body distinction will probably be the most effective way to eliminate stigma. Your health and wellbeing is your health and wellbeing — that includes typical physical illnesses but it includes emotional health as well.”
Ms Sousa explained that the Bermuda Counsellors Association has been working to advance the profession in Bermuda for 20 years. She revealed that efforts to get the profession registered should pay off by the end of the year.
Ms Sousa said this would “go a long way to having people feel more confident about the level of care that they are getting when they go to a counsellor”.