A contemporary lifestyle causing pressure on mental health

Chamber of Psychologists President Gail Debono tells MATTHEW FARRUGIA greater awareness may explain the increase in mental health issues but financial pressures, the omnipresent social media and environmental factors are leaving their impact

It may seem like the country’s general mental health is deteriorating but psychologist Gail Debono cautions that this may also be the result of more awareness.

Debono, who heads the Chamber of Psychologists, said the unprecedented number of reports related to mental health issues cannot be automatically linked to an increase in cases.

But she acknowledged that there is mounting pressure from the type of lifestyle people are living.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to strains on mental health and people need to be more aware of the importance to take care of their mental wellbeing, she added.

“One may, for example, subscribe to societal pressure of reaching financial affluence at any cost, and this may determine their behaviour,” she explained, noting that this may lead to overworking or even crime. While acknowledging that this may not be widespread behaviour, Debono said that smaller habits such as a poor diet and lack of regard for physical health can easily exacerbate mental health problems.

Traffic, construction and financial stress

Debono said the environment one lives in can be a substantial contributor to stress, saying that local living conditions could be a factor driving up mental health cases. “Traffic, construction and cost of living are issues which can affect people’s mental health,” she added.

While traffic and construction may cause pollution, noise, loss of green spaces and frustration, the psychologist lobby’s president noted that the increasing cost of living can also be a source of stress and anxiety.

“Financial struggles generally lead to people requiring multiple streams of income, and therefore less time to devote to other important spheres of their lives such as spending time with loved ones and self care,” Debono explained.

She said the fact that social media has become firmly ingrained in most people’s lives is also taking its toll on users’ mental health.

“Through the development of social media, our lives are no longer private,” Debono noted. “Our successes, failures, mundanities, thoughts, opinions, actions, and exposure to those of others are now broadcast all over the world in real time.”

Additionally, Debono she said social media creates “bubbles”, making it easier for one to be caught up in spates of negativity over any number of issues.

“In a country that is so highly politically polarised this is even more poignant,” she said. On top of this, Debono highlighted that the ease with which one can communicate on social media has intensified the pace of our lifestyle, as prompt replies to messages are becoming more and more expected of users.

Psychologists also need help

In light of all this, Debono stated that this too is leaving an impact on psychologists. “Everything that everyone else goes through is also felt by us personally, and then again vicariously through our clients. It is for that reason that psychologists are required to attend therapy themselves, as well as supervision sessions with psychologists who are senior to them.”

For this reason, Debono called for more resources to match the changing demands of today’s growing society, as well as the need for more awareness of preserving our mental health.

“It is essential to expand the support offered on all fronts, including help for the professionals operating in the field. With the proper resources to carry out their work, psychology professionals - who devote their careers to serving others - will ultimately be able to provide greater services to individuals in need,” Debono said.