Lawyers with Disabilities Division

Does technology stress you out?

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Yasmin Sheikh looks at the releationship between technology and our mental health.

Here is a sobering thought.. depression is going to over take heart disease in years to come and according to Business Disability Forum about 79 per cent of people hide their depression for fear of being judged by their employers. How much is technology to blame for this?

Technology can free us to work wherever and whenever we like - whilst abroad, around family commitments, appointments, journeys to and from workplaces and even under the duvet in the dead of the night.

But this also poses a problem…

Quick quiz. Can you relate to one or all three of these situations?

  1. 1.Has your partner been annoyed at you for checking your blackberry for the 10th time that morning when you’re supposed to be relaxing by the pool in sunny Portugal and re-connecting with them?
  2. 2.Is your 10 year old son performing in a school play which is so mind numbingly boring that you’re tempted to check how many ‘likes’ you’ve got on Facebook about that article you posted on Brexit?
  3. 3.Has your boss emailed you about a report he wants first thing on his desk tomorrow morning when you check your phone last thing at night in bed?

How can we use technology to help us combat depression and anxiety?

I will look at our relationship between technology and mental health.

There is a culture of cyber bullying now as you’re able to post anonymously on social media and the workplace has arguably a more subtle form of cyber bullying.

However, technology can assist us with building confidence and also augment and enhance human support. Technology can be a scaffold.

Here are four examples:

Think Google maps

Helps people find places which can reduce levels of anxiety for those who may experience panic attacks.

The Uber taxi app

Enables people to make easy and straightforward journeys especially for those with a disability. Also women, who are legally barred from driving in Saudi Arabia make up 70-90 per cent of the service’s customer base. Would they not be socially disabled without this app?

Social media

Over the weekend when tensions were high after the Brexit result your Facebook newsfeeds were going crazy. Leavers were told they were racist, remainers were elitist and sore losers and those that sat on the fence cowards for not pinning their colours to the mast.

I had to think that in this culture of over sharing is technology actually a good thing or not for our mental health. On balance, I think it is.

You have probably got around 500 ‘friends’ or so on Facebook and have joined various Facebook groups. We collect these ‘friends’ at various stages in our lives, from all walks of life and usually quite casually send or accept a friend request. Would you want to meet every single ‘friend’ for a cup of tea? Hell no!

After the massive tensions which the referendum revealed in the UK between class, race, generations, north/south divide and educational background, we now need to really understand and seek to listen to each other. How can we get into each other’s worlds and seek to understand what life is like in their shoes? If we only associated with people just like ourselves whether in person or online - same school, same background, same age, same area? BORING! Wouldn’t you rather know what others are thinking and feeling? It is only then you can seek to challenge or concede that they may have some valid points? (I said some not all, calm down).

Support groups

I belong to a group which supports people with spinal injuries and recently one person alarmingly posted, ‘I’ve just had enough, I want to kill myself!!’ What followed afterwards were a lot of frantic messages of concern. Luckily one of the spinal charities picked it up and called the police so that the person could be helped. Luckily this person did not go through with this threat. Yes, it may be ‘over sharing’, not terribly British, wherever that means, and not comfortable for us to see but the alternative is unthinkable. It was his cry for help to a group who understands the challenges better than most.

According to the Mayo Clinic, men are more likely than women to commit suicide. Depression is one of the most important risk factors in suicide. Unfortunately, male depression is under-diagnosed because men are less likely to seek help and because men don’t always develop standard symptoms, such as sadness, but instead are more likely to experience fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbances, and a loss of interest in work and hobbies.

For those reasons, perhaps posting online that you need some help may be easier than telling someone about it face to face. Technology one, social isolation zero.

In 2009 there were concerns about pro-eating disorder websites, which provide an online community to swap tips on how to fast, disguise disordered eating, and generally ‘encourage’ anorexia.
Following public complaints and concerns, many such ‘pro-ana’ sites were shut down. In 2001, for example, the search engine Yahoo purged over 100 pro-anorexia sites. The trouble is that those people then became undetected which then did not assist the professionals to seek to understand how to reach out to people.

The question is how can you make technology work for you rather than you be a slave to technology?

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