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Mental Health Suffering As Negative Stories Dominate The Headlines In 2020


By Gerard Barnes, CEO of mental health treatment specialists Smart TMS | UPDATED: 10:28, 26 February 2020

The ubiquity of media and the overwhelming stream of negative news headlines is having a major impact on the mental health of people across the UK.

In 2020 alone, the nation has already had to content with the US-Iran fallout, the horror of the Australian bushfires, the threat of coronavirus, widespread flooding, several incidents of extremist violence, and political instability surrounding Brexit.

These are just some of the headlines that have confronted people in the UK in the past two months, and according to the Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, there are a variety of studies which suggest that excess negative media exposure can exacerbate or contribute to the development stress, anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Access to digital media has drastically changed how people consume the news over the past 15-20 years, and according to leading British psychologist Dr Graham Davey, these changes “have often been detrimental to general mental health”, due to the overconsumption of negative media.

Amidst this news, mental health treatment specialists Smart TMS have carried out nationally representative research to explore how the mental health of the nation has changed over time. The results of their research are startling:

  • A quarter of Brits (24%) report that they now find basic functions, such as sleeping and showering, considerably more difficult than they used to

  • A quarter of Brits (25%) now find themselves regularly cancelling plans and isolating themselves to avoid interaction

  • 3 in 10 (30%) of Brits regularly experience considerable anxiety and stress in social situations

  • Almost one in five Brits (17%) say that casual drinking turns into binge drinking far more often

In light of this research, CEO of Smart TMS, Gerard Barnes, discusses the impact of negative news on our mental health, and shares some tips on how to improve digital wellbeing and safeguard one’s psychological state:

“The constant coverage of negative news stories has grown considerably over recent years, so much so to the point where large quantities of people are struggling to contend with the onslaught of negativity in the media. This has lead to increased levels of anxiety and stress, and has exacerbated symptoms of depression. Brexit is a fine example of one such news story that has had a clear negative impact; a recent survey found that 64% of Brits claimed that the constant coverage of Brexit was affecting their mental health – and this is just one issue that people in the UK have been faced with. 

While it is of course important that we remain informed of key developing events around the world, it is of paramount importance that we ensure that people in the UK have the support they need to deal with mental health issues, and receive the education necessary to understand the dangers of overexposure to the media, so they can protect themselves adequately.

Whilst this education should be implemented from an early age, there are some simple steps that people can take to improve their digital wellbeing in a time of such media onslaught. Setting app timers on your phone can draw attention to your dependence on your mobile device and help you to set boundaries on your usage. I would also recommend changing your notification settings to avoid being bombarded by often irrelevant and unnecessary news updates. Finally, one of the best ways to maintain one’s digital wellbeing, is simply to disconnect more often. Focusing on real-life experiences, exercise, time spent with close ones and enjoyable activities is a sure-fire way to strengthen your mental state and be better prepared to face the news!”

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