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Depression is on the rise among millennials, but 20% of them aren’t seeking treatment — and it’s likely because they can’t afford it

Depression is on the rise among millennials, but 20% of them aren’t seeking treatment — and it’s likely because they can’t afford it

Depression is on the rise among millennials.

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Depression is on the rise among millennials.
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JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

Major depression is on the rise among millennials – but one in five of them don’t seek treatment, according to research released by the Blue Cross.

According to a recent report analyzing data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index, major depression diagnoses are rising at a faster rate for millennials and teens compared to any other age group.

Since 2013, millennials have seen a 47% increase in major depression diagnoses. The overall rate increased from 3% to 4.4% among 18 to 34 year olds.

These findings were underscored by an additional Blue Cross Blue Shield report on millennial health. It analyzed the data of 55 million commerically insured American millennials, there defined as aged 21 to 36 in 2017. It found that major depression had the highest prevalence rate, or the likelihood of a person having a disease, among health conditions affecting millennials.

The most prominent symptom of major depression is “a severe and persistent low mood, profound sadness, or a sense of despair,” according to Harvard Medical School.

Blue Cross also found that millennials are less healthy than Gen Xers were at their age, and that they’re likely to be less healthy than Gen Xers when they’re older.

In total, two million commercially insured Americans diagnosed with major depression aren’t seeking treatment.

Read more: Depression among Gen Z is skyrocketing – a troubling mental-health trend that could affect the rest of their lives

Pricey healthcare and burnout are making millennials unhealthy

Millennials’ adverse health and their reluctance to get help may be related to rising healthcare costs and increasing levels of burnout.

Healthcare is one of four key costs plaguing millennials. In 1960, the average annual health-insurance cost per person was $146 – in 2016, it hit $10,345. When adjusted for inflation, that’s a nine-fold increase. Costs are expected to increase to $14,944 in 2023.

In fact, more millennials than baby boomers have declined medical or dental treatment because it was too costly, according to an INSIDER and Morning Consult survey.

Meanwhile, cases of burnout have been increasing at an alarming rate over recent years, reported Business Insider’s Ivan De Luce. The World Health Organization recently classified burnout as a “syndrome,” medically legitimizing the condition for the first time.

It’s a growing problem in today’s workplace because of trends like rising workloads, limited staff and resources, and long hours – particularly for millennials, who consider themselves the “burnout generation.”

A major San Francisco Bay Area city is getting closer to decriminalizing magic mushrooms and ayahuasca

A major San Francisco Bay Area city is getting closer to decriminalizing magic mushrooms and ayahuasca

Oakland could become the second US city after Denver, Colorado, to decriminalize certain psychedelic drugs.

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Oakland could become the second US city after Denver, Colorado, to decriminalize certain psychedelic drugs.
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Photofusion / Contributor/GettyImages

Oakland, California, could become the second city in the United States to decriminalize certain psychedelic drugs. The anticipated move comes after a councilman proposed a resolution that would lessen the legal repercussions for possessing naturally occurring forms of the drug type, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Denver, Colorado, citizens voted to decriminalize psilocybin, the psychoactive component in “magic” mushrooms, on May 7, making it the first U.S. city to pass such a law. Denver’s law doesn’t legalize psilocybin, but rather makes personal possession of the substance a low enforcement priority for the city and county.

Oakland’s proposed initiative would do the same for psilocybin, as well as ayahuasca, psychoactive cacti that contain compounds like mescaline, and iboga – all psychedelic drugs that occur naturally. The initiative would not decriminalize synthetic psychedelics like MDMA and LSD.

Oakland councilman Noel Gallo introduced the initiative, which he believes has the potential to help people with mental health problems. “If I can … talk about (how it can) deal with the mental illnesses that we have in the city, why not?” Gallo told the Chronicle.

Council President Rebecca Kaplan also said she supported the resolution, citing mass incarceration for drug possession as a reason for her stance. “I recognize that the war on drugs has been a racist, expensive, wasteful failure,” she told the Chronicle. “I also believe there are strong public health reasons to support this change.”

The illegal status of psychedelic drugs has limited research efforts, but some studies have shown psilocybin has the potential to treat depression. A small November 2016 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that people with cancer who had depression and anxiety related to their diagnoses reported a reduction in their symptoms when using psilocybin.

Another small study, published in 2006 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that 50% (18 of 36 participants) of those who used 30 milligrams of psilocybin two to three times over a two-month period reported their psilocybin experience improved their personal well-being or life satisfaction moderately. Another 29% said psilocybin improved their life satisfaction “very much.”

Oakland law enforcement’s main concern about the resolution is its potential to increase the number of people driving while under the influence of psilocybin or other psychedelic drugs, Sergeant Ray Kelly told the Chronicle. One 1998 study found psilocybin caused psychotic episodes in some users, which raises more concerns about its effects.

More research on psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs needs to be done to better understand its effects and potential uses, and decriminalization advocates believe the Oakland resolution is a step in that direction.

Oakland’s city council is scheduled to discuss the decriminalization proposal on June 4.

Read more:

Facebook’s effort to stop suicides by monitoring your posts reveals a worrisome gap between tech giants and healthcare experts

Facebook’s effort to stop suicides by monitoring your posts reveals a worrisome gap between tech giants and healthcare experts

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook has a suicide-monitoring tool that's sent emergency responders to locations more than 3,500 times.

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Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook has a suicide-monitoring tool that’s sent emergency responders to locations more than 3,500 times.
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Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Facebook has a suicide-monitoring tool that uses machine learning to identify posts that may indicate someone is at risk of killing themselves.
  • The tool was involved in sending emergency responders to locations more than 3,500 times as of last fall.
  • A Harvard psychiatrist is worried the tool could worsen health problems by homing in on the wrong people or escalating mental-health crises.
  • Facebook does not consider the tool to be health research and hasn’t published any information on how it works or whether it’s successful.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Facebook knew there was a problem when a string of people used the platform to publicly broadcast their suicides in real time.

Staff at the company had been thinking about the issue of suicide since 2009, when a cluster of them occurred at two high schools near the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto. Then, things became personal. After the company rolled out a video livestreaming tool called “Facebook Live,” several people used it to broadcast themselves taking their own lives. First it was a 14-year-old girl and then a 33-year-old man, both in the US. Later, in the fall, a young man in Turkey broadcast himself dying by suicide.

Facebook, led by Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, tasked its safety-and-security team with doing something about it.

The result was Facebook’s suicide-monitoring algorithm, which has been running since 2017 and was involved in sending emergency responders to people more than 3,500 times as of last fall, according to the company.

Using pattern-recognition technology, the tool identifies posts and livestreams that appear to express intents of suicide. It scans the text in a post, along with the comments on it, such as “Are you OK?” When a post is ranked as potentially suicidal, it is sent first to a content moderator and then to a trained staff member tasked with notifying emergency responders.

Harvard psychiatrist and tech consultant John Torous only learned of the tool’s existence last year, from a journalist. He said he’s concerned it may be doing more harm than good.

‘We as the public are partaking in this grand experiment’

“We as the public are partaking in this grand experiment, but we don’t know if it’s useful or not,” Torous told Business Insider last week.

Torous has spent years collaborating with tech giants like Microsoft on scientific research. The reason he hadn’t heard about Facebook’s suicide-monitoring algorithm was because Facebook hasn’t shared information about the tool with researchers such as him, or with the broader medical and scientific community.

In fact, Facebook hasn’t published any data on how its tool works. The company’s view is that the tool isn’t a health product or research initiative but more akin to calling for help if you see someone in trouble in a public space.

“We are in the business of connecting people with supportive communities. We are not mental health providers,” Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, previously told Business Insider.

But without public information on the tool, Torous said big questions about Facebook’s suicide-monitoring tool are impossible to answer. He is worried the tool might home in on the wrong users, discourage frank discussions about mental health on the platform, or escalate or even create, a mental-health crisis where there wasn’t one.

In sum, Torous said Facebook’s use of the tool could be hurting more people than it’s helping.

“It’s one thing for an academic or a company to say this will or won’t work. But you’re not seeing any on-the-ground peer-reviewed evidence,” Torous said. “It’s concerning. It kind of has that Theranos feel.”

Clinicians and companies disagree on the definition of health research

Facebook’s suicide-monitoring tool is just one example of how the barriers that separate tech from healthcare are crumbling. A growing array of products and services – think Apple Watch, Amazon’s Alexa, and even the latest meditation app – straddle the gap between health innovation and tech disruption. Clinicians see red flags. Tech leaders see revolution.

“There’s almost this implicit assumption that they play by a different set of rules,” Torous said.

At Facebook, the safety and security team spoke with experts at several suicide-prevention nonprofits, including Daniel Reidenberg, the founder of Save.org. Reidenberg told Business Insider that he helped Facebook create a solution by sharing his experiences, bringing in people who’d struggled personally with suicide, and having them share what helped them.

Reidenberg told Business Insider that he thinks Facebook is doing good work in suicide, but because its efforts are in uncharted waters, he thinks everyday issues will arise with the tool. He disagrees with Torous’ view that the efforts are health research.

“There isn’t any company that’s more forward-thinking in this area,” Reidenberg said.

Still, it is unclear how well Facebook’s suicide-monitoring tool works. Because of privacy issues, emergency responders can’t tell Facebook what happened at the scene of a potential suicide, Davis said. In other words, emergency responders can’t tell Facebook if they reached the scene too late to stop a death, showed up to the wrong place, or arrived only to learn there was no real problem.

Torous, a psychiatrist who’s familiar with the thorny issues in predicting suicide, is skeptical of how that will play out with regard to the suicide monitoring tool. He points to a review of 17 studies in which researchers analyzed 64 different suicide-prediction models and concluded that the models had almost no ability to successfully predict a suicide attempt.

“We know Facebook built it and they’re using it, but we don’t really know if it’s accurate, if it’s flagging the right or wrong people, or if it’s flagging things too early or too late,” Torous said.

Volunteering their time to provide emotional support

Volunteering their time to provide emotional support

Everyone needs an outlet to vent, a shoulder to cry on or someone to turn to for emotional support.

When there is no avenue to “offload”, life’s challenges and stressors can seem daunting. Little things can add up and trigger disruptive, negative or suicidal thoughts.

When the mind is disturbed, it wreaks havoc on the body. And on other people.

There is a rising prevalence of those with mental health issues in the country.

Based on the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2015, the prevalence of mental health issues among adults above 16 years of age is 29.2%, or 4.2 million Malaysians.

Mental health problems are a growing public health concern globally, and by 2020, it is expected to be the second biggest health problem affecting Malaysians after heart disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability as measured by “years lived with disability” and the fourth contributor to the global burden of disease.

So who does one turn to for help or to talk things out?

While we’ve all heard of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Befrienders, there is another organisation that has also been offering free counselling services for the past 27 years.

Call-in counselling

The Buddhist Gem Fellowship Counselling Unit (BGFCU) came into being in 1992 with a telephone counselling service to help individuals cope with the pressures of modern living.

The NGO also provides information and referral services, so that the client or caller will have the most competent resource to help them handle their problem.

“We saw a need for it back then and formed the unit with a group of people with counselling qualifications.

“Our unit comprises all volunteers who initially manned the helpline twice a week. With increasing demand, we’re now open for two hours daily from Monday to Friday,” says BGFCU main coordinator Wong Chung Heong.

People call in with a variety of problems, and not just relationship issues.

“Lately, we’re seeing an increase in callers and their issues range from problems with parents, children, siblings, bosses, lecturers, studies, work, sexual orientation, grief, bereavement, etc,” says Wong.

BGFCU training coordinator Siew Yin Heng adds: “In January, we saw a peak in calls just before the Chinese New Year, when the stress level goes up.

“Many of these calls are from young people saying they are being urged to get married or find a partner.

“They feel pressured to face their parents and relatives when they return for the celebrations, which shouldn’t be the case.

“We’re here to provide emotional support. Maybe at that time, you just need to vent or talk to someone because you feel lonely or misunderstood.

“People feel ‘listened to’ when talking to someone who is non-judgemental.”

Lonely, stressed, misunderstood, counselling, emotional support, Buddhist Gem Fellowship Counselling Unit, volunteer work, Chinese New Year, hometown, family pressure, Star2.com

Aside from the stress of rushing back to hometowns for the Chinese New Year celebrations, seen in this filepic, many young people feel the pressure to either find a partner or settle down, resulting in the need for a non-judgmental ear.

Extensive training

A year after being set up and with more people calling them, BGFCU started offering annual counselling courses and training to recruit more volunteers for the ongoing telephone counselling service.

“However, the course went beyond this objective as participants brought home with them some basic counselling knowledge and skills that also benefit them in their day-to-day living through better communication and interpersonal skills.

“It also enhanced their sense of empathy.

“We want to educate participants on key mental health issues so that they are able to recognise and identify mental health needs, know where to seek help and hopefully seek help when they face their own issues. It’s all about self-awareness and coping.

“If, after attending the training, the participants agree to be a volunteer for the telephone counselling service, then it is a bonus!” says Siew, a registered counsellor.

Over the years, the BGFCU has undergone many revamps, and today, provides intensive training to participants with the aim of producing para-counsellors (firstline counsellors) who have basic counselling skills to provide emotional support to those who are in distress.

“The ability to show empathy, compassion, genuine concern and unconditional acceptance of the client is generally how we define emotional support.

“If the para-counsellor isn’t able to handle the caller, he or she passes it on the supervisor, who is usually a registered counsellor,” says Siew.

Some of the topics in the training course include conflict resolution skills, mental and emotional impact of stress, lifelong human development, effective listening in counselling, self awareness etc, and the speakers comprise experts in the industry.

It takes around 18 months to become as a para-counsellor. Volunteers are assessed thoroughly before they are allowed to man the phone lines.

Siew reasons, “Remember, we’re dealing with a vulnerable person, so we don’t want volunteers who might stress people out further, hence our selection criteria is very important.

“During the training period, we do a lot of self-help sessions.”

Para-counsellors are encouraged to actively pursue continuous learning, and in support of this, BGFCU has started to conduct six full day workshops this year to assist them in sharpening their helping skills.

Wong says, “There are participants who loved the training so much that they brought other family members in and all have become our volunteers!”

There are currently 27 volunteers on the team, comprising para-counsellors and counsellors, who use mostly English as a medium of communication.

Lonely, stressed, misunderstood, counselling, emotional support, Buddhist Gem Fellowship Counselling Unit, volunteer work, Wong Chung Heong, Siew Yin Heng, Star2.com

Siew (left) and Wong are here to help individuals cope with the pressures of modern living. — KAMARUL ARIFFIN/The Star

The callers

Each person who calls in is allocated 40 minutes and remains anonymous throughout the counselling session.

Only their age range and state they’re calling from are required in order to help BGFCU build a database.

Many of these callers are first-timers.

Wong says, “They may call an average of three or four times, then they don’t call any more, so we assume they are okay.

“Sometimes they feel comfortable with a certain para-counsellor and may want to speak to the same person again.

“We don’t talk to minors below 18, so we refer them to a professional.

“Usually, our cases are not so serious because the callers are all functional adults.

“And because we don’t operate 24 hours and have limited resour-ces, if it’s a suicidal case, we refer them to Befrienders.”

If there is a call complaining of abuse, whether physically, emotionally or verbally, the volunteers get informed consent and report the incident to the respective authorities.

“If there is a need, we ask them for their next-of-kin’s name, but we don’t ask them immediately, because a lot of times, they are not very receptive. This information is entirely voluntary though.

“For religious problems, we refer them because we are not trained in spiritual counselling,” says Wong, a former nurse, who has been a para-counsellor with BGFCU since it was established.

Siew explains that callers are given a “psycho-education” over the phone.

“If a caller says there is domestic violence, we don’t interrogate them as it pushes them away. Instead, we tell them where to go to seek help.

“We don’t contact them afterwards either. We teach them to empower themselves.

“Our role is not to advise, but to listen without prejudice.

“Many people say they are being pushed to ‘do the right thing’, but we cannot tell you what this ‘right thing’ is in one session.

“So we give you information for you to act on,” she says.

If the session is an effective one, the caller would be able to come up with a plan or experience self-realisation.

Siew says, “We trigger their awareness and allow them to see that there is a way out.

“When they share, they’re actually listening to themselves and start questioning themselves.

“It’s also a way for personal growth. A lot of us cannot see our own strengths.”

For the volunteers, there is a monthly talk session (for them to talk and share) after their “services” to help them unload what’s on their minds. Talking is therapeutic.

BGFCU hopes to reach out more to the public to let them know that help is always there, no matter how dire the situation may seem.

“We’re targeting working adults to help them cope with small stressors before they escalate out of control.

“Oftentimes, when stress is work-related, you don’t talk about it with your family members, or vice versa. We want to bridge this gap.” says Wong.

The BGFCU helpline is available from 7.30pm to 9.30pm, Monday to Friday. If you need advice or a listening ear, call 03-7859 9610/9682.
There’s even more evidence that social media increases depression and loneliness

There’s even more evidence that social media increases depression and loneliness

We can't help comparing ourselves to others on social media.

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We can’t help comparing ourselves to others on social media.
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eldar nurkovic / Shutterstock
  • A new study has shown a link between social media use and depression.
  • Research has been hinting at the connection for several years, but scientists from the University of Pennsylvania say this is the most comprehensive, rigorous study yet.
  • People tend to show a more glamorous, positive, and envious lifestyle on their social media.
  • But social media isn’t all bad.
  • Like many things, it’s all about balance and moderation.

Ever since sites like Facebook and Instagram became part of daily life, scientists have wondered whether they contribute to mental health problems. In fact, research has hinted at a connection between social media use and depression for several years.

A new study, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, has added more evidence to the theory.

The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania designed their experiment to be more comprehensive than previous studies on the topic. Rather than relying on short-term lab data or self-reported questionnaires, they recruited 143 undergraduate students to share screenshots of their Phone battery screens over a week to collect data on how much they were using social media apps – Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.

Subjects were told either to maintain their typical social media behaviour, or limit it to 10 minutes per day. Alongside the screen shot data, the researchers also looked at how much the participants experienced fear of missing out, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

friends traveling and take selfie

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Cookie Studio/Shutterstock

Read more: Yale psychiatrist has one explanation for why students these days are so anxious

“Here’s the bottom line,” said Melissa G. Hunt, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the study. “Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

She added 18-to-22-year-olds shouldn’t stop using social media altogether, but cutting down might be beneficial.

“It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely,” she said.

“Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”

People tend to show a more glamorous, positive, and envious lifestyle on their social media. In fact, over half of millennials admit they portray their relationship as better than it really is.

This is a problem because your social media life can become like a negative feedback loop – wanting others to be jealous of your life, while constantly comparing yourself to those on your feed.

“If you spend most of your time scrolling through your newsfeed checking out other people’s lives and compare them to your own, you become more at risk of developing (or having worsening) symptoms of depression or anxiety,” psychologist Allison Abrams told Business Insider. “This is especially so in those with low self esteem.”

Read more: Half of millennials portray their relationship on social media as better than it really is – here’s why that’s a problem

A study earlier this year found teens who spend too much time looking at screens are more unhappy. But, if they spent just less than an hour using the technology, the opposite was true.

The results suggest social media and screens should be used in moderation, just like most things. But they are probably not as bad for us as we’ve been led to believe.

In fact, one expert – Andrew Przybylski, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute – told Business Insider that much of our bias against social media may simply be a projection of our own fears. We talk to each other about how smartphones are decreasing our intelligence and ruining our real friendships, but in reality, we may just be worrying that this is true.

Screens shouldn't take time away from physical activity and sleep.

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Screens shouldn’t take time away from physical activity and sleep.
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Burdun Iliya / Shutterstock

Looking at screens isn’t a good idea if you’re doing it in lieu of any physical exercise or sleep. But used in moderation, technology is handy for staying in touch with friends when in-person contact isn’t a possibility, and video games can improve your skills in coordination, problem-solving, and memory.

Hunt said the new study only looked at three social media apps, so it’s not clear if it applies more broadly. But she hopes to answer more questions with further research. Overall, she said there are two conclusions we can reach from the study’s results.

“When you’re not busy getting sucked into clickbait social media, you’re actually spending more time on things that are more likely to make you feel better about your life.” she said. “In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life.”

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