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According to a report published on Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of mental health-related visits to emergency rooms by children, teenagers, and young adults increased from 2011 to 2020. With the increase in mental health visits, there has been a request of urgent need to expand crisis services. 

The research was drawn from data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, which looked at the annual number of mental health-related E.R. visits by people 6 to 24 years old. The numbers increased from 4.8 million to 7.5 million in a period when the overall number of pediatric E.R. visits fell. 

The number of visits increased for many conditions, including mood and behavioral disorders, substance use, and psychosis. Unfortunately, researchers saw the greatest increase in suicide-related issues, rising from 0.9 percent of all pediatric emergency room visits in 2011 to 4.2 percent in 2020. 

It is important to note that the nation’s medical infrastructure was created to help young people with physical injuries, such as broken bones, infections, and other injuries suffered in vehicle accidents. However, with mental health disorders surpassing physical conditions, it is essential for pediatrics and emergency rooms to be equipped with the right kind of training and resources to better help our population of adolescents. 

This research only examines the number of visits and doesn’t take into consideration the number of patients. The study also didn’t include the visits at psychiatric hospitals with crisis or urgent care centers, meaning that the number of emergency visits for mental health and suicide could be even higher. 

The Link Between Social Media Use and Increase in Adolescent Mental Health Issues 

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates ten to twenty percent of adolescents worldwide struggle with mental health issues and warns that the more risk factors they are exposed to, the greater potential impact it will have on their mental health. 

While not all cases of mental health emergencies involve social media, it is important to consider something so prevalent in our everyday lives. It’s no secret that teenagers use social media to stay connected to their peers, and they may have positive experiences. However, experts state that extensive use of social media can be a risk factor when adolescents hyperfocus on the number of “likes” their posts gain, which can lead to a comparison between their own physical appearance or life circumstances. Such actions and behaviors stemming from social media can lead to anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. 

What Are Some Legislative Efforts Being Made to Prevent Harm to Teenagers on Social Media?

Multiple legislative efforts have been introduced to help keep minors safe from social media content. 

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation that would help protect children from the harmful effects of social media. The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would set a minimum age of 13 to use social media apps, such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. It would also require parental consent for 13-to 17-year-olds.

In addition, the law would prevent social media companies from recommending content using algorithms for users under the age of 18, which would prevent endless scrolls. Further, it would require social media platforms to implement age verification measures. The law also includes creating a pilot project for a government-provided age verification system that platforms could use. 

Another bill was reintroduced to the Senate on Tuesday known as the Kids Online Safety Act to direct social media platforms to prioritize the well-being of users under age 17 and protect them from harmful content. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn) introduced the bill in February 2022, but it fell apart. Now, after there have been multiple lawsuits presented by parents and school districts against Meta and its platforms, new state legislation has been introduced to better protect the students and adolescent population. 

Mental Health Awareness Month is May 

The month of May happens to be mental health awareness month, a time to raise awareness of trauma and its impact on the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of children, parents, and communities. 

With this being said, The Carlson Law Firm would like to suggest a couple of things you could do if you suspect your relationship with social media is taking a toll on you. Although it’s unrealistic to suggest completely eliminating your social media, try to decrease your social media time if you are experiencing any negative emotions. Other things to try include:

  • Plan a small gathering or spend some time hanging out with a friend 
  • Take time to get out and exercise 
  • Find a place to volunteer

If you or someone you know is having trouble distancing from unhealthy social media habits or continues to have feelings of anxiety or depression, schedule time to talk to your health-care provider or campus health center professional.  

The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

The Carlson Law Firm is helping lead the charge in holding these companies accountable. Through their own surveys, companies like Meta were fully aware that teens were unhappy with the amount of time they spent on social media and their inability to stop. However, these social media companies made zero effort to change their practices. 

If your child suffers from an eating disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, or self-harm, or they died by suicide after using Instagram or Facebook, you may be able to join legal action against these companies.

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