The Anxiety and Depression Epidemic and the Spending Disconnect

We keep pouring money into our personal electronic devices like there’s no tomorrow, always wanting more, always wanting the very latest-and schools are no different. In fact, $3.8 billion is spent on classroom technology every year-but 27% of it doesn’t meet any learning goals!

Translation: $1 billion of your ed tech tax dollars are wasted annually.

At the same time, in the name of funding issues, only three states provide kids with at least one school counselor-formerly known as guidance counselors-for every 250 students, as recommended. Equally troubling, just three others have at least one school psychologist for every 750 students, so says federal data.

Put them together and what have you got? Rising rates of anxiety and depression in our young people with not much of a safety net at the ready for them.

Moreover…

  • In a 2019 Pew Research Poll, 70% of surveyed teens agreed that stress, anxiety, and depression are a major problem among their peers.
  • A 2017 American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey found that 60% of parents worry about social media’s influence on their child’s physical and mental health.
  • A recent NBC News/Survey Monkey poll found that almost 33% of 1,300 parents of 5- to 17-year-olds blamed social media for their children’s mental and emotional health problems.
  • From 2009 to 2017, the CDC says that depression rates for those 14 to 17 rose by more than 60%.
  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 32% of adolescents suffer from an anxiety disorder, with 12% of our 12- to 17-year-olds reporting one major depressive episode in the last year.
  • Between 2005 and 2017, the proportion of teens, 12 to 17, reporting major depressive symptoms rose from 8.7% to 13.2%, according to data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health.

About such facts and arguing that teens turn to their smartphones as their “preferred social outlet,” San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge says, “It suggests that something is seriously wrong in the lives of young people and that whatever went wrong seemed to happen around 2012 or 2013.”

And that’s about the time when, as Twenge notes, smartphones became commonplace and “social media moved from being optional to mandatory among youngsters… What you get is a fundamental shift in how teens spend their leisure time. They are spending less time sleeping, less time with their friends face-to-face… It is not something that happened to their parents… “

University of Southern California Vice Provost for Campus Wellness & Crisis Intervention Varun San adds this: “At the root of it is a sense of disconnection. These are students who are so connected online. These are students that may have 1,000 friends online but struggle to make friends in real life.”

Also of note:

  1. Of the 1,800 19- to 21-year-olds questioned, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that the top 25% of social media users are at greater risk of experiencing depression than the bottom 25%.
  2. The University College London found that teens who use social media more than 5 hours a day showed a 50% increase in depressive symptoms among girls and a 35% jump among boys compared to the 1- to 3-hour users.
  3. According to a UK Millennium Cohort study, 43% of girls said they spend 3 hours or more on social media, as did 21.9% of boys-and 26% of those girls and 21% of those boys had higher depressive scores than those spending less than 3 hours.

And now this just in: An analysis by the National Institutes of Health, the University of Albany, and NYU’s Langone Medical Center found that babies as young as 12 months experience nearly one hour of screen time every day, and 3-year-olds put in more than 150 minutes.

In other words, take heed and set limits, following the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines that recommend NO screens for babies/toddlers under 18 months, with a gradual add-on between 18 to 24 months, and no more than one hour per day for the 2 to 5 set.

And then tell your kids…

  1. No more than 2 hours a day on any device-other than computer-related homework.
  2. No devices at the dinner table or during quiet homework/study time except for online assignments
  3. No device use one hour before bedtime-too stimulating, plus the blue light wreaks havoc on sleep.
  4. No going to bed with their smartphone in hand. If used as a wake-up alarm, buy an alarm clock instead.

Oh, yes, and follow your own good advice for your own good…

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Manic Depression – What Are The Symptoms?

Manic depression can be defined as an extended stage of mood swings. One may experience these mood swings from really high to very low degree. The high degree is known as manic and the lower as depressed.

Bipolar disorder is yet another name for manic depressive illness. This stage usually refers to as an individual’s mood that shifts between different ‘poles’ of mania and depression.

Manic Depression is not something to be taken lightly. It is a serious disorder and needs serious professional and personal care.

Manic depression can affect both men and women. There is no specific age at which this disease usually starts. However, experts believe that the onset of this disease takes place in late adolescence.

This disorder can be found among people irrespective of their age, race, social classes and ethnic groups. Medical experts feel that this disease has a genetic link and even tends to run in the families.

The disease does not only affect the patient but also the person who attends to him or her. The immediate family circle is known to suffer a lot. Here are some of the symptoms related to this disorder:

a) Less amount of sleep required.

b) Increased energy; Restlessness; Increased activity

c) Poor Judgment; Euphoric mood (excessively high); Spending sprees

d) Abuse of drugs including cocaine, sleeping pills and alcohol

e) Shifting from one idea to another very frequently

f) Tendency to get distracted easily; Inability to concentrate well; Extreme irritability

g) Talking fast; Racing thoughts

h) Aggressive behavior; Intrusive behavior; Provocative behavior

i) Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers; Denial that anything is wrong

j) Lasting period of behavior that’s quite different from usual

The symptoms for low or ‘depressive’ stage of manic depression:

a) Thoughts of death; Thoughts of suicide; Suicide attempts

b) Restlessness; Irritability

c) Feeling of hopelessness; Extreme pessimism

d) Sleeping too much; Inhibits to sleep or insomnia

e) Difficulty in concentrating; Lack of memory

f) Lack of energy; Loss of interest in pleasure activities

g) Change in appetite; Weight loss without making any efforts; Weight gain

h) Difficulty in making decisions; A feeling of fatigue

i) Feeling guilty; Feeling of worthlessness: Feeling of helplessness

j) Chronic pain; Symptoms in body not as a result of injury or illness

k) Long-lasting mood of moroseness; Empty mood; Anxiety that lasts long

– Causes

There are several causes of manic depression. Here is a list of some of the causes that lead to manic depression:

a) Genetic factor

As discussed earlier, manic depression tends to run in families. Chromosomes tend to show genetic abnormalities.

b) Fast biological clock

Hypothalamus, the center of the brain shows a super fast biological ‘clock’. The clock is actually a small cluster of nerves known as the supra chiasmatic nucleus or SCN. This works towards regulating an individual’s daily cycle of life and affects waking and sleeping.

c) Neurotransmitters

Patients of manic depression are known to have higher levels of vesicular monoamine transporter. It is a protein inside the brain that’s known to regulate neurotransmitters.

Other causes include abnormal activity of brain and infectious agents such as viruses.

What Kind of Church Welcomes Those With Depression?

Recently I was shocked to hear the news of another young man, a pastor, who had taken his own life, leaving behind a beautiful wife and three gorgeous kids. It is heartbreaking to say the least.

This article could go in many different directions. But I’m choosing the direction that seems to me to be most obvious. The world needs a church where the sick are welcome, and where even the senior leaders are allowed to be sick even in their appointed seasons of ministry.

Why? Because it happens.

The system of church must be able to cope with it, especially given that the church is a hospital for the sick.

What I talk about here is not physical disease, but the mental, emotional, spiritual maladies that so many of us have been dogged by. I have had three major bouts of depression, I have suffered panic attacks, and I have endured enough grief to understand and accept that suffering is endemic to life.

So why is there a perception that those with depression are not welcome in the church?

Why would there not be the appropriate support and counselling and programmes of training to help sick people? Well, sometimes there are resource constraints.

Part of the reason, perhaps, is that our modern world is so geared around slick and efficient operations, and pastoral leaders feel driven to replicate that in the church.

This perfectionism that can never be satisfied has become part of modern church culture.

So many young and not-so-young men and women in the church today are under enormous pressure to serve well enough to please the people they serve as well as the church boards they work for.

The church needs to be a place where we can be rewarded for our honesty regarding our weaknesses.

After all, it’s a biblical idea that we receive Christ’s strength when we admit our weakness. The trouble is we live in a day that has forgotten biblical tradition, and that has bought the lie that successful church must be competitive, and that successful ministry must be both effective and founded in excellence. Church is run like a business, competing for its members, with its sales and marketing strategies, instead of simply rooting itself in living out the gospel.

There are many reasons why churches may not embrace the concept of strength-in-weakness within their ministries. Many forces collide. Part of the issue is the intrusion of prosperity, name-it-claim-it, doctrine.

It seems to me that if we are to improve the acceptance of mental health issues like depression in our churches we need to embrace them across the board. What would Jesus have us do? Deny the reality? By no means!

I cannot think of a better way of doing this than one of the pastors or key leaders being completely transparent about a current struggle. Oh, I know that that used to be a no-no. As a pastor you would not share on anything unless you had overcome it. But pastors also need to lead the way in vulnerability which shows humility.

Pastors need to show courage, ironically in their weakness by being vulnerable, to encourage others in their weakness.

That sort of example of weakness begins with the pastor!

But churches don’t seem to like their pastors being weak.

This is because we’ve fallen for the lie that leaders are strong.

In many things in life, however, ‘overcoming’ is fanciful, as if we could click our fingers and overcome depression. Anyone who’s been depressed knows that is nonsense. We don’t have that sort of control over this black dog. And this is entirely biblical. The Bible would lead us to the lament psalms, Ecclesiastes, the book of Job, the prophetic writings, and in the New Testament, Second Corinthians, and specifically, that thorn in Paul’s side, among many others. The idea is suffering is central in the Bible. Moses, David, Jonah, Elijah, Jeremiah, the list goes on and on. Can the suffering servant Jesus of Isaiah 45-55 not understand our depression, especially in the light of the cross?

Why is it that pastors need to project the image that they have it all together? None of us do…

Their heroes in the Bible didn’t.

There seems to be a system of development for pastors that does not allow much leeway for them to have genuine and ongoing struggles. Like, that kind of weakness counts against them or counts them out. Yet this tradition forgets about some of the best pastors who suffered, like Spurgeon. I know from a writing perspective that I am more deeply connected to God in the words I write when I am struggling. There is a deeper kind of ministry that we may tap into in our depression, so long as we don’t feel overwhelmed by it, and so long as a deeper kind of ministry would be allowed. Acceptance is a powerful economy.

Pastors with depression must be embraced all the more! Pastors who have suffered depression are all the better equipped for ministry. And churches need to wrestle more with how effectively they support people in the darkness. Smoke machines, brewed coffee and stealth-like efficiency make a mockery of the tenets of the church with its own book on suffering.

Churches are complex environments for those who work in them, whether they are paid or volunteers. Those who are paid always put in many more hours than they are paid for, and those who are volunteers give hundreds of hours per year for the love of it.

It would be okay if it was satisfying work, but many times it’s not worth the conflict, or the constant not meeting of the high standards many churches set, and I’m not meaning standards of holiness, but standards of effectiveness. The workplace environment in churches can be more toxic than the comparative workplace environment in secular workplaces. The sense of inadequacy, the conflicts that don’t go away, the pressure from leaders and members, the pressure to lead, and the spiritual warfare that is part of the environment all contribute to the chaos that broods in a pastor or ministry leader and threatens to burn them out in a spirit of despair.

Surely, we could understand that there are a plethora of precursors that predispose people in the church to suffer depression and anxiety-related disorders.

I suggest that the kind of church that accepts and even embraces those with depression, especially those within the ranks of its pastors, is Christ’s church.

Surely it must grieve the Spirit of God that so many pastors, and anyone for that matter, are suffering alone, not to mention the ones that are dying!

Here are some things that the church provided that I found helped me when I suffered depression in ministry:

  1. Even more so I was embraced within leadership, as the leadership understood that I needed the support of fellowship. When we are feeling weak we need much encouragement, and the best encouragement comes from those who are most mature in the faith. Leaders who are suffering depression must be around leaders who are compassionate and wise.
  2. There was a culture that embraced both weakness and honesty. Both are needed. We are only strong until we become weak, and it is only a matter of time. When we are weak we need to be honest, and the church must build a culture that demands honesty and provides safety for everything that is disclosed.
  3. There was a devotion to prayer, which is another way of saying that the ministry of healing is God’s business; that those within the Church understood that clichés and advice had limited or even damaging effect.
  4. As I shared my burden and my incapacity, I was still allowed to do what I felt I needed to do, but other leaders took on the more onerous responsibilities. This often meant that they would delegate off single tasks to others which was an opportunity to develop them. What I found most encouraging is these other leaders would not make me feel guilty. They simply understood. Churches need to nurture a culture that exemplifies empathy and compassion.

3 Ways to Beat the Blues This Season for Winter Health

Do you feel depressed and low-energy during winter’s dark days? What you have is most likely not S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which is literally a medical condition similar to clinical depression. You likely just have a milder condition: seasonal depression. And that’s good news because? Because it’s easy to beat with three simple steps:

1. Light, light, light! Use full-spectrum light-bulbs in your home and at work, wherever possible, then add a “happy light’ – You can’t afford not to. What is your good mood worth to you? You can read or make phone calls or do whatever you wish near the light box or put it at your work desk. Also, once a month, try the new UV safe tanning beds. Not to tan, just to get the light your body needs.

Take a minivacation and close your eyes each day for a minute by your light box and imagine you are in Hawaii or another sunny destination… you may just find yourself there on a quick vacation! But in the meantime, you’ll feel better. Imagine yourself immersed in joy… that will help, too!

2. Stay active. You may think winter is for hibernating, but if you do, hibernate actively! I do Zumba at home by my sunny window and alternates with swimming at an indoor pool that has lots of light coming in during the morning hours. Exercise is a magic-pill you have to earn by sweat! Also, be sure to get enough good sleep in order to have the energy you need to work out.

Are you doing the kind of exercise you love? If you are, then you’re motivated to exercise more. Do you love to exercise alone or in a group? Do you need others to push you along or sweat with you? Do you need a firmly scheduled class? If so, you know what to do… join one!

Don’t have time? Just imagine exercising and you’ll find yourself having time! Do this visualization as you wake up in the morning or just as you are falling asleep at night, and whenever you feel guilty about not exercising! People have actually toned up just by imagining it, but you will likely find yourself at the gym, walking at lunchtime, or wherever/whenever you can best get your workout. The subconscious is a powerful tool to help you in your daily life. Just keep speaking its language-images!

3. Vitamin D-3 helps a lot – If you can’t get enough real sunlight, and even if you can, take D-3 in a form that is easy to absorb and utilize by your body. If you could only take one supplement with you on a long journey, I’ve heard that vitamin D-3 is the one to take with you. Yes, even over vitamin C.

Tropical Depression Alberto and Tropical Cyclone Boloetse

We all wish we could forget the record breaking, costly and deadly 2005 Atlantic Tropical Hurricane Season; the season, which just would not quit. It even rang in the New Years Celebration with Zeta. When will we get the first named Atlantic Storm in 2006? Well, the answer is a little alarming in that it could be much sooner than you think!

Some believe it is because of Global Warming and Climate Change, while others say it is this plus the Hurricane Activity Cycles which are normal. Well, no matter what we have what could be Tropical Depression, Tropical Storm or even Hurricane Alberto trying to form in the middle of the Western Atlantic, yes in the middle of February? Oh my God say the nerve shaking Gulf Coast residents of the United States; here we go again.

Is it possible? Well in another ocean we already had two Tropical Cyclones in January. Here is a picture of Tropical Cyclone Boloetse;

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NewImages/images.php3?img_id=17178

Two Tropical Cyclones already by late in January, so if we can have them there, then certainly we can get a Tropical Storm in the Western Atlantic in Early February? Why not? Still many who lived through the last season are certainly pretty worried about these things and right about now could do without the stress of things to come. Consider this in 2006.