(CBS DFW)- Mental health has become a much larger and more accepted topic of conversation in today’s digitally-connected and interconnected world. As celebrities and athletes have begun to open up about their own battles, it seems that society has begun to do the same. There’s a willingness to have more discussion about mental health and its attending factors. People struggling with addiction, anxiety or depression are no longer ostracized as they once were, but there is still plenty of growth to be had in the way we think about mental wellness in general.
Part of the problem that many people struggling with these conditions have is finding a treatment center that can work within their day-to-day lives. Dr. Kevin Gilliland, executive director of Innovation 360, has looked to build just that. The treatment centers, located in Dallas and Austin, Texas help people that are struggling with various mental health issues by providing a more flexible and individualized treatment program. What stands out is that Innovation 360 isn’t strictly an in-patient treatment facility that requires people to remove themselves from their daily routine. There isn’t one set catch-all plan, rather each case and person is given a specific plan to treat and manage their mental health issues designed for their needs.
“Our healthcare system can get really rigid, so we had the opportunity to step back and see what do people really need when they get back home or they can’t afford to go away,” explained Dr. Gilliland in an interview in the CBS Local Studios. “So we thought, how do you flex with people’s lives such that we can deliver the same care that they need. That is what we were able to do and it’s been wonderful.
While Dr. Gilliland and the team at Innovation 360 continue to work with people to treat various mental health issues, he and many other psychologists across the country have noticed a continued increase in the level of anxiety and depression that people are experiencing today. There are many factors contributing to it, but one that is constantly pointed out, and often scapegoated, is social media.
On that front, Dr. Gilliland says there is still a lot we don’t know as the research into the effect of social media is hard to do. And, while he is a fan of the ability to make connections that social media provides, he also cautions people to be more aware about how they use it and how much of it they consume because the effects can vary from person to person.
He likens social media consumption to that roommate or friend many people have who can seemingly eat whatever they want and stay the same size.
“It’s a little bit like alcohol, smoking or food,” said Dr. Gilliland. “If you were in college and had roommates, there were times when you wondered, ‘Why can my roommate eat like that and I can’t? We have the same workout routine, but if I eat a whole pizza like he does, I gain weight quickly.’ You have to start to realize that, I can’t do that because it has a negative effect on me.”
He goes on to say that we as a society need to do a better job of thinking about the effects that the things we’re reading, looking at, or watching have on us. He advises taking a few seconds after looking at social media and ask yourself a few questions:
- How long was I doing that?
- Was that a good use of my time?
- Was I avoiding doing something else.
- And, how do I feel? Do I feel better than when I started looking or worse?
Dr. Gilliland says we should look at our social media consumption the same way that we look at food. There has been a health “revolution” around the world thanks to the introduction of wearable devices like FitBit or Apple Watch. He beleives we should pay attention to how we use social media in the same way that we do with our food.
“We count calories really well. Everybody has a FitBit or Apple Watch and they know how many steps they have taken,” said Dr. Gilliland. “That is really good. However we have to start thinking that way about consumption of information. I love social media and I love what the Internet can provide. But, we do better when we go out and look for something specific like how to find a job or sites to see in a city.”
“There are lots of things we can find out there that can be amazing. But, we have to be thoughtful about what we do,” continued Dr. Gilliland. “We have to start being more active about what we are consuming. I think we have made a lot of strides in our physical activity and nutrition because we’re far more thoughtful about it. But, it’s staying disciplined that’s the challenge.”