In a time of unlimited opportunities more young people than ever have mental health issues.

How can it be that the western world is more technologically advanced than ever and yet at the most basic level of supporting our young adults we are in major crisis?

At the same time as we have the entire globe digitally connected and plugged into knowledge, we have ever more teenagers on medication for depression and multiple different personality disorders. In some of the top private schools in Sydney greater than 30% of the students are reported to be requiring pharmaceuticals daily. As a doctor I believe this should be viewed with great concern as one of the biggest issues in the health of our nation, especially given that these issues can often have an impact on the rest of their adult lives.

There seems to be a direct link between the growing tsunami of technological influence in our lives and the rising mental health issues. Unlimited connectivity has meant that basic family connections have suffered greatly. Children are potentially being influenced and learning more from their online activities than from their parents, who are themselves often slaves to their own devices.

Many teenagers have unlimited online access which flows from the increasing use of iPads or laptops at school seamlessly to the home where they have smart phones and computers in their rooms. Early learning expert Kristy Goodwin, A Macquarie University academic, has been conducting research into how computers change brain architecture in children.

At a time when communities would traditionally have acknowledged and celebrated the transition of their boys to young men and girls to young women by creating community-based Rites of Passage, we now have breakdown in the family unit with a void that our adolescents are filling with digital input. We are letting technology replace our community wisdom in initiating our teenagers into adulthood.

At this critical time when they need wisdom and guidance as well as a fundamental change in the parental relationship, scores of teens are retreating to their bedrooms, isolating themselves and living in a virtual world. From a medical point of view, as an example, I am seeing increasing numbers of teenage boys who are heroes in their video gaming world but have enormous anxiety about even simple things like having to catch a different bus home after a school event.

We need to seriously review the boundaries, or lack of, around the use of technology, we need to re-engage parents during the transition phase as boys become young men and girls become young women, and we need to look at creating appropriate community based Rites of Passage that will support teenagers to find their genuine purpose and passion in life as well as their role in community.

– Dr Arne Rubinstein


 

Dr Arne Rubinstein has worked for 30 years as a doctor, counsellor, mentor, speaker and workshop facilitator specialising in adolescent development and Rites of Passage. He is the author of the bestselling The Making of Men and is the father of two fabulous young men. Dr Arne Rubinstein will be speaking on the impact of Absent Father Syndrome at the Generation Next seminar in Adelaide.

www.drarne.com.au