On February 25, a timely and interesting “unconference” will be held in Melbourne to discuss the implications of the communications revolution for our mental health.
In keeping with the spirit of the times, anyone can attend or contribute. I’m sure there will also be plenty of talk about it on Twitter and the like.
Thanks to Janet Hopkins, CEO of Lantern (formerly known as Reach Out Mental Health), for giving an overview of the issues, and keeping Croakey readers in the loop.
Technology is changing the way we communicate with each other. The speed with which this change is happening is staggering. This has a direct impact upon our mental health.
The internet grew 278 times from the end of 2005 to the start of 2009, largely due to the growth in social media and connective technology. In Australia there are now 9.6 million active internet subscribers and over 85% have a mobile phone (4 billion worldwide!).
Mobile wireless is now our fastest growing internet technology. With smart phones such as the iPhone and mobile wireless devices such as the iPad, this will soon be where the majority of website views will be coming from. Next time you catch the train, take note of how many people are using their phone to do everything BUT call someone.
Some of us are now living our lives in a constant state of connectedness. At any moment, pretty much wherever we are, we can seek and receive information, talk, send messages, take notes, take pictures, listen to music or watch video.
We can pretty much find an answer to any question. If we choose, we can be always be found, and the trap is we often feel a strong need to be instantly responsive too. Young people in particular have taken to the instant ‘chatter’ of SMS with gusto. In the US, a recent Neilson study found they are sending or receiving an average of 3,339 texts each a month.
It is clear that as a community we are embracing this technology.
What are the implications of this for our mental health and well being? How do we exploit the benefits and reduce the pitfalls?
Approximately one in five adults, one in four young people and one in three young women 16-24 years experience mental illness each year.
Many of them will head on-line first in an effort to seek information and support.
There are now around 9.4 million Facebook users in Australia alone. Nearly one third of these are aged between 18-25 years. Using the Internet and social media channels such as Facebook and YouTube is second nature to many and our approach to mental health must be one mindful of this.
There is much to explore. Rapid developments are occurring in the broad field of electronic health, including e-mental health. Governments, consumers, health care providers and others are working on a range of projects and activities to harness the new technologies to improve the range and quality of health services and information available to the Australian public.
At the same time we are constantly reading about fears and concerns around Internet addiction, shrinking attention spans, cyber bullying and privacy issues. There is much to talk about.
What are the latest developments? What are the future possibilities?
What is the impact of 24/7 connectedness? What about mindfulness and our well being?
All this and more will be explored at the Lantern Mental Health 2.0 Unconference to be held in Melbourne on Friday, February 25.
If you want to be part of the discussion, head to the website and sign up to secure your place. There are over 100 people attending from government, corporate, local out-reach organisations, web design companies and many others.
• Lantern is a community based not-for-profit organisation providing services to people with mental illness and their carers, friends, family and the community.