KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 — One in four youths in the country have been reported to be undergoing emotional stress while one in eight youths aged between 10 and 19, faced mental depression according to the National Health and Mobility Survey (NHMS) for 2022.
Even more worrying about the contents of the survey is that one in every 10 youths can develop suicidal thoughts, a contrasting behaviour compared to a decade ago.
An increase in the use of social media among youths can affect their mental health and has given rise to cyber bullying, anxiety, isolation and depression.
Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist at Sunway Medical Centre Dr Tee Bee Chin it is important to identify signs of addiction to online activities and games that can lead to side effects.
Dr Tee said addiction to gaming and internet activities and increased access to the internet and smartphones, social media has become a normal part of everyday life for children and teenagers of this generation but these platforms could have a negative impact on their mental well-being.
She added that addiction to gaming and internet activities can result in a negative outburst, changes in academic performance, drastic changes in mood, avoiding social interaction among friends and family.
“This signs can be seen when they isolate themselves from their daily activities, routine, increase in time spent in front of the screen and indulgence in online activities.
“We use the basic procedures to diagnose addiction like the amount of time spent online, behaviourial changes and failure to reduce time spent in front of the screen,” she said.
Dr Tee added that prolonged use of the Internet for online gaming activities can result in anxiety, depression and other mental disorders that can affect the well being of children, both physically and mentally.
She added that studies and research shows a significant relationship between addiction to social media and depression, anxiety, delusion and physical symptoms of mood swings and behaviour, especially among teenage girls.
“I have also seen a close relationship in the behaviourial trend of those playing video games that have violence and children who react aggressively. Games that involve searching for enemies or completing an aggresive mission can inculcate a negative behaviour in children within a short period,” she said.
Dr Tee added that a new study has shown that youths exposed to violent video games show a swing in their mood and become aggressive or angry, are involved in quarrels with teachers, being involved in physical aggression as well as result in a drop in their academic performances.
Physical, emotional and social changes, including exposure to poverty, abuse, or violence, can make adolescents vulnerable to mental health problems.
Those with mental health conditions are particularly vulnerable to social exclusion, discrimination, stigma (affecting readiness to seek help), educational difficulties, risk-taking behaviours, physical ill-health and human rights violations.
Therefore, in conjunction with World Mental Health Day, Dr Tee stressed the importance of protecting the mental health of children in the digital era by identifying signs of emotional disorder and quickly seeking professional help and treatment.
She added that early detection and the right treatment can reduce the risk of suicides and increase the mechanism to face depression, especially among those who are battling against depression, isolation and anxiety during treatment.
Mental health conditions in children are diagnosed and treated based on signs and symptoms and how the conditions affects a child’s daily life.
She added that there are various types of theraphy in treating mental health conditions among children, including councelling to overcome stress, congnitive behaviour, theraphy to overcome sadness, theraphy for trauma, theraphy with games for children, family theraphy and medication like anti-depression for serious symptoms.
“The various kinds of theraphy must be suited for the need of individuals and a number of factors like age, support, coping skills, personality and acceptance of diagnosis and treatment by the children and family be considered,” she said.
Dr Tee said parents need to seek the best treatment and advise from specialised people who understand the challenges involved in facing addiction to online gaming and internet activities.