Tuesday , July 16 2024

Social media addiction prompting major mental health crisis among Vietnamese youth


Just before his high school entrance examination, 14-year-old Khang was hospitalized for depression after overexposure to negative social media content.

Khang lives with his grandmother as his parents often go on long business trips. As such, he has free reign on the usage of his phone and computer.

When his mother decided to work closer to home earlier this year in order to take better care of her son, she decided to focus all her resources getting him into a specialized high school.

But Khang’s mother discovered that his academic results were in decline. And they had been for some time. He was irritable and tired all the time, and he began to withdraw socially.

Khang’s story, which has only just begun, illustrates the profound impact of social media addiction on young minds. These digital dependencies, where turbulent personal and academic lives unravel, and the most hopeful ending include interventions and support systems to reclaim and rebuild healthier futures.

Khang’s mother one day inadvertently checked his phone, and saw that her son was engaging with self-harm groups on social media. The family decided to confiscate his phone. But then Khang attempted to commit suicide.

He fortunately did not succeed, but that’s how he ended up in hospital.

‘Blood comforts me’

When he checked in to the Mai Huong Mental Hospital in Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung District earlier this month, Khang said that he liked to “watch images of accidents and blood because they comfort me.” He also told doctors that he could not quit social media.

After numerous examinations and tests, Khang was diagnosed with social media addiction and severe depression, and he had to be admitted for treatment.

Similarly, the 16-year-old daughter of a woman named Hong, who lives in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan District, was hospitalized due to an anxiety disorder triggered by social media addiction last year.

Hong said her daughter was glued to her phone 24/7, including when she ate, went to bed and even when she bathed. She often stayed up all night “surfing” the internet until supreme exhaustion finally knocked her out. But still, all it took was a “ping” from her phone for her to wake up immediately.

Hong then limited her daughter’s phone usage to three hours a day.

The girl did not take it well.

“When she was restricted from using her phone, she was always irritable, and often used her phone anyway when I was not home,” Hong said, adding that her daughter rapidly lost weight and isolated herself by never leaving her room.

Then the girl said she began to regularly hear voices in her ears.

Hong took her in for a diagnosis, and it was revealed that her daughter had depression and signs of schizophrenia. She was prescribed medicine, along with psychotherapy, and she was no longer allowed to use her phone.

Internetism

Signs of social media addiction include constant use of the Internet, and a rising demand for Internet when it is not available, to the point that people feel sad and tired when they do not have Internet access, according to the WHO. Some use the Internet as a distraction via which they can try to escape their real-world problems.

In Vietnam, social media addiction is considered rampant. A Digital 2021 report revealed that Vietnamese use the Internet for six hours and 47 minutes a day on average, with two hours and 21 minutes spent on social media. While there is not yet official statistics on the number of adolescents addicted to social media, the rate of young people experiencing mental issues is on the rise, and social media is a contributing factor, experts have reported.

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine revealed that children aged 12-15 who use social media for over three hours a day are twice at risk of contracting mental health issues than those who do not use social media. Experts also said excessive use of social media can expose people to harmful and dangerous content, as well as leading to feelings of inadequacy when one compares themselves to others online. Those are just a couple of the myriad possibly negative effects of social media.

Vuong Nguyen Toan Thien, a specialty director of the Lumos Psychological Services company, said there should be more education and communication to raise awareness of the harmful impacts of social media. People should be taught how to protect their own personal information and avoid the risks of cyber-bullying, for a start, according to Thien.

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