For this study on mental health we ran three tasks over the course of a few weeks.
The first task looked at Tribes and their mental health, which uncovered their conditions and what they think contributes to poor mental health.
The second task looked at how Tribes think mental health is portrayed on TV.
The third task examined Tribe’s experiences of using social media, and the impact they think this has on society and mental health.
Tribes and their mental health
When asked to think about their general happiness on a day-to-day basis, a majority of Tribes (67%) are happy.
6 in 10 Tribes suffer from mental health issues and find general life difficult at times.
Overall, Tribes have a good balance of coping mechanisms they use to help them if they’re feeling down or unhappy.
Tribes are far more likely to try and deal with their issues themselves, than go and actively seek professional help. Only 20% of Tribes have spoken to a healthcare professional or therapist in the past/currently when they have felt down.
A majority feel uncomfortable doing so, as 71% of them think there’s still a stigma when it comes to seeking help or advise from a healthcare professional.
Pressure to perform in life and work is the biggest contributing factor to the Tribes’ mental health issues.
“Pressure at work, such as heavy workload, being overworked, and at home I’m thinking about the bills to pay, some with arrears, the card’s invoice bursting, are things like that leave me in that situation.” – Male, 24 (Low self-esteem)
“I consider that the main triggers are all the responsibilities and activities that I must perform every day in my work.”– Female, 20 (Insomnia)
“Other times though it’ll be a bigger thing like I’m worried I’ll miss a deadline and I’ll get super stressed.”– Female, 19 (Anxiety)
“Stress and horrible workload set it off. Also, winter time.”– Female, 22 (Depression)
Understanding low self-esteem
Those with low self-esteem are mainly triggered by reflecting on their appearance. This ranges from feeling down about their weight to comparing themselves to friends or celebrities on social media.
Another common trigger is bullying, whereby mean comments knock their confidence.
“The comparisons especially growing up had made a strong impact on me so I often don’t feel like I am good enough.” – Female, 17
“Mostly social media and any forms of media, so television, magazines, online articles, celebrity culture. I always feel worse about myself because of these things and it’s the reason why I actually deleted Instagram. The app made me very unhappy.”– Female, 22
“When I was younger I was always compared to others, I had comments about the way I looked which never affected me as a child but growing into adulthood those thoughts really creep back in! Social media is definitely a trigger for me, the amount of unachievable looks is quite overwhelming and can make me spiral!” – Female, 24
“I’m not fat, but I don’t think I would call myself skinny either. All of my friends are smaller/fitter than I am, and it makes me feel like “the fat one” compared to them.”– Female, 22
Those with anxiety and social anxiety are mainly triggered by social situations. Tribes suffering from either of these conditions find social interaction, in particular meeting new people and having one to one conversation, very difficult.
Both groups feel overwhelmed when in loud and busy places e.g. weddings, parties and pubs. Another contributor to their condition is overthinking and the fear of judgement from others.
Something that differed between the two is that financial stress is often a trigger for those with anxiety.
“When I’m introduced to someone I don’t know I’m not sure what to say. I don’t want to look bad or say the wrong thing.” – Female (Social anxiety)
“If I don’t know where I am going I don’t like to ask people, I don’t like meeting new people or working with new people when I do I don’t really talk to them that much. Also hate asking questions and ringing is something I don’t do I rarely answer the phone if someone rings.”– Female, 20 (Social anxiety)
“I am persistently afraid of being judged, criticized, ridiculed or humiliated. I feel shy or nervous in certain situations. When I have to attend a work meeting, I must state my opinions.” – Female (Social anxiety)
Understanding panic attacks
Those who suffer from panic attacks are often triggered by high pressure situations such as school exams, work issues, arguments and loud noises.
Similarly to those who suffer from anxiety, overthinking and worrying is something that often contributes to their panic attacks.
“When I get into arguments with people and they get too heated.” – Female, 19
“Various things. Being alone somewhere new, being really stressed and feeling like I’m not going to finish something at work before the deadline.” – Female
“Work, UNI, Friends, loud noises, crowded places. I am not good where there are loads of people, I like to have my own space to be able to breathe.” – Female, 20
Those who suffer from depression are triggered by negative life experiences and loneliness. These two factors often work together, as events such as the death of loved ones and ended relationships mentioned by Tribes also made them feel isolated.
Some Tribes’ depression is brought on by financial stress, whereas others commented on having no triggers at all; it’s something that just comes on.
“Problems with relationships, not being where I want to be, people being unkind or harsh, feeling trapped.” – Does not identify as male or female, 22
“Something as little as just waking up, sitting in my chair, not receiving post (stupid I know), having to attend meetings, having a shower and not receiving a message… literally anything small and little on any day can spark off a few hours of complete breakdown even if it’s a good day.”– Transgender, 22
Understanding insomnia/sleeping disorders
Those with insomnia/sleeping disorders are triggered by worrying about life experiences, work and money.
“I struggle to sleep due to overthinking. I freak out at night thinking that my neighbour will come back to my house and hurt me or if someone is there to bully me and beat me. Because of this if I hear people outside shouting I panic or if someone has said something that I took to heart that day I will not be able to sleep.” – Female, 20
“Anxiety related issues such as what will happen tomorrow, will it be a good day?” –Male, 23
Tribes think the biggest contributors to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are work pressure, social instability and global affairs, and social media
Work pressure and expectations in school, university and work:
Tribes said they felt an inherent pressure to do well and succeed from the media, their parents and the institutions they attend.
Many stated they get very stressed about exams and deadlines, and those in employment commented on frequently being overworked in their jobs.
Tribes look towards the future with confusion, and some have felt judged in the past for not knowing what they want to do in life.
“I think the pressure on teens to go out and achieve greatness is pretty high, the intensity of A levels is ridiculous and the pressure placed on students by their peers and by the system is leading to more stress and anxiety for sure.” – Female, 16
“Stress. People are being put under more and more stress in their daily lives. At work, we are being put under more pressure.” – Female, 24
“Pressures from parents, school/uni work, general expectations set by society. (e.g. “you have to have accomplished ___ by 22 or you’re falling behind”).”– Female, 22
Social instability and global affairs
Tribes feel disillusioned by the current state of society and amount of instability in the world.
Tribes commented on high levels of discrimination such as racism, LGBT-phobia, misogyny etc. and other prevalent issues, such as climate change and political radicalism being responsible for mental health issues and overall unease.
They also think general life has become more difficult to sustain due to rising costs and economic uncertainty, making it much harder to e.g. buy a house and get a foot on the property ladder. All of these issues are intensified by work pressure.
“We’re living in such bleak times, both in terms of austerity but also the lack of hope for the future. For generations, the world must have seemed like it was becoming a better place every day. Now it feels like life just gets harder and messier with time.” – Female, 19
“I would certainly say the economy and politics, the unforeseen future of both of them creating this impending sense of dread amongst people in a personal capacity when they think about their next steps.” – Male, 23
Tribes and their attitudes to social media and mental health
When Tribes were asked what ways social media has changed people’s lives for the better, connectivity and discovery were the two key benefits
Connectivity: Tribes like to chat to their friends anytime and anywhere using WhatsApp and Instagram, and feel these apps are great for creating and developing friendships. Many commented that they wouldn’t be able to sustain their international friendships without social media.
Tribes feel lucky and comforted from being able to meet and connect with likeminded people through social media, and is something that brings new and exciting experiences to their lives.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram also allow tribes to see what their friends are up to on a daily basis, and the effects of this are twofold. Some feel they are missing out, whilst others feel they are right there with them.
Discovery: Social media is also viewed as a great platform for discovering and keeping up to date with news, music, events, movements etc. in real time.
They think that reading the news on platforms such as Twitter, BBC and Instagram is quicker and easier compared to traditional sources such as newspapers.
These platforms provide bitesize chunks of information that are easy to digest, making it a simple process to keep up to date with national and global news.
One downfall that was widely criticized was the proliferation of “fake” news and harmful ideas on social media. They believe these two concepts are responsible for increasing levels of discrimination, hate and bullying online. Examples of this are spreading false information about someone, to the glamorization of eating disorders and depression.
How social media has changed people’s lives for the better in the words of Tribes…
“It’s made it a lot easier for people to keep in contact with loved ones, and also contact others from around the world who may share common interests and experiences. On one hand, constantly being on social media can warp your perception of reality, but then again you can develop friendships online with people who have suffered similar feelings of inadequacy and support each other.” – Female, 22
“We can get out stress just signing in Facebook, Twitter or other social media because we can tell a friend about our problems and get better in a few minutes.” – Male
However, social media is also thought to have had a negative effect on society, ranging from the contribution of poor mental health and bullying to the weakening of social skills and fostering device addiction
Tribes strongly believe social media is responsible for society’s poor and declining mental health. There is a strong consensus amongst Tribes about the dangers of “fakeness” on social media, most notably on Instagram and Facebook.
Tribes think that social media pushes users to post false and unrealistic material in order to project a perfect life; only ever posting the “good things”. This is believed to warp users sense of reality, causing them to become instantly disappointed when adversity enters their life. Many also said it causes users to become dependent on their online reputation to feel any self-worth.
Tribes think this has been perpetuated and encouraged by influential celebrity’s social media posts as people mirror and compare themselves to them. Many stated the dangers of comparing yourself to others on social media and is seen as a root cause in people feeling depressed and/or lacking confidence and self-esteem.
How social media has changed people’s lives for the worst in the words of Tribes…
“Social media!! The constant need to be perfect and “live your best life” I think simply encourages people to feel worse when they don’t feel like their life fits the Instagram image.” – Female, 22
“I think social media definitely causes people to have toxic thoughts towards themselves and especially their body. People post photos of ‘perfect bodies’ and fitness plans and diet tips, this is very damaging to how people perceive themselves.” – Female, 17
35% of Tribes think Twitter has a positive effect on society, which is corroborated by many stating the second key benefit of social media was that it is a great way to learn and discover news and other content.
Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are not viewed as positively, due to them all carrying strong traits of “fakeness” (e.g. snapchat filters, Instagram models posting unrealistic content or Facebook users only showing the “perfect bits” of their lives) and less of a clear usage purpose.
A vast 90% of Tribes agreed that they are often judged by how they appear/present themselves on social media
Tribes feel that dangerous behaviour on social media is on the rise
Tribes starkly identified the prominence of cyberbullying (i.e. trolling, hate comments). They think it’s now become easier to attack users (partially due to the abundance of platforms) and is also much harder to protect against.
Some aren’t convinced platforms are being controlled and monitored enough by social media companies, considering cyberbullying is contributing to poor mental health, and in some circumstances, suicide. Tribes also feel that users have become addicted to the action of checking their social media, something that is paradoxically disconnecting, as people are now on their phones instead of communicating to those in front of them.
Another contribution to this is that Tribes think people are receiving too many notifications 24/7, which in turn distracts them from real life. Tribes feel some users have developed an addiction to the like and comment “buzz” from social media posts, and commented on how people continue to chase this feeling to their own detriment. This has shaped a dependency for some users who must post content to get likes and comments in order to feel good.
Many tribes prefer to communicate with each other on social media
Some think this shift signals a weakening in social skills for the youth and is something that urgently needs to be addressed.
However, this change in behaviour is also viewed positively by many, as for some they feel more comfortable talking about sensitive issues (such as mental health) online.
“Social networks have made people isolated and lose physical contact with people.” – Male, 17
“I am very anxious about contacting people but sending a message on Facebook is very low-stress as opposed to calling someone, and I feel it is more casual than a text, making it less stressful even than that.” – Female, 22
Tribes and their attitudes towards TV and mental health
Tribes think that mental health is being addressed more in TV shows than ever before. They welcome a realistic yet subtle portrayal of these issues, and like programmes that show viewers how they can deal with them
Subtlety: Tribes praise TV shows that subtly weave mental health issues into the story line because they feel it gives a more genuine projection of what’s happening in today’s society.
“I think both the BBC version of Sherlock and the American Elementary both portray Sherlock’s mental health very well and shows it as something that you can overcome, also his mental health is not the main point of the series and by not treating it as the main subject is a good way to portray mental health positively into a show.” – Female, 17
Development: Tribes also like to watch shows that demonstrate character’s making progress or seeking help with their mental health issues. Shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Bodyguard were admired for displaying the importance of giving help, guidance and support to those suffering, and how it can help their journey to recovery. This is perceived as a good method to educate viewers about how they can help themselves and others.
“I recall an episode where Meredith got beaten up by a patient in a psychosis, and it was sensitive to both parties, explored forgiveness, understanding, and also explored her journey in her own head in recovery.” – Female 19
Positivity: Tribes think highly of TV shows that portray mental health issues in a positive light, showing that those suffering from different conditions can live a normal life. They also think it’s important in reducing the stigma with mental health issues and continuing the conversation.
“My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend talks about how a person with mental health conditions can live a normal life and these shows can be a good example to young people with this condition, it could be a good example even to people who know about somebody with these disorders, they could learn from this show how to treat them without bullying.” – Male
Honesty: TV shows that openly portray the life and struggles that people with mental health issues face are seen as important in educating people about the dangers involved.
“Skins – wouldn’t say it was positive or negative it just documented what it’s like to live with a mental health issue.” – Female, 18
“Bojack Horseman is a show that excellently portrays mental health issues such as depression and drug and alcohol dependency and how this is a vicious cycle and can cause self-destructive behaviours and how this can affect other people’s lives. Although not necessarily positive, it is brutally honest and educational.”- Female
Tribes think TV shows that deal with mental health issues poorly fail to approach them in a sensitive or realistic way
The TV show 13 Reasons Why came under scrutiny as many believed the graphic scenes didn’t need to be included. Some also think that the plot was overtly triggering and glamorised mental health, to the point that is was disturbing instead of educational.
Tribes dislike plots or characters that normalise or encourage harmful behaviour. Instead, they think there should always be a lesson involved or progressive outcome.
“In TV shows nowadays many uses mental illness for one episode but then you never see it mentioned again. For example, Pretty Little Liars, where Hanna had bulimia in the past. Alison “helped her throw up.” As Hanna tells all this to Aria, she tells her that she basically overcame it on her own. It just magically went away. This is real and mental illness doesn’t work like that.” – Female, 19
“13 reasons why was damaging in so many ways. Most obviously the physical self harm shown but also many other distressing factors.” – Female
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