Researchers who are concerned about mental health disparities in young people spoke out at a Gustavus Adolphus College gathering about the importance identity, trauma, and technology.
Last week’s Nobel Conference was devoted to the study of technology and social media’s impact on youth mental health. Researchers offered observations and solutions for racial disparities among young adults’ alcohol consumption, mental health struggles of Indigenous peoples, and the link between online racism and depression and anxiety symptoms in Black youth.
Three takeaways from the conference are:
1. Re-envisioning an “alterNative” Indigenous mental health framework
Joseph Gone was one of the speakers and discussed the root causes of mental health problems among Indigenous peoples. He also suggested how we can re-imagine the health system to be more “alterNative” to meet Native Americans’ needs.
“Indigenous psychological health is really an interesting undertaking because of the types of psychological distress that confront Indigenous peoples,” stated Gone, an anthropologist at Harvard University and professor of sociology and global health.
Gone stated that suicide, trauma, and addiction are the most common mental health conditions in Indigenous communities. He said that these problems should be viewed less as mental disorders in the psychological sense and more as postcolonial pathologies.
Gone’s research focuses on colonial oppression, which he believes is at the root of mental health problems that disproportionately affect Indigenous peoples.
According CDC Data from 2020span styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>,, suicide is the second leading cause of death among Indigenous youth ages 15-24 years old in the U.S. With around 29% of those deaths being attributed to suicide, This compares with 23% for white youth of the same age.
He said that the colonial encounter had shown Native Americans that their way of living was worthless. People react to this by feeling disoriented and what we call anomie. This is a term that, in psychology and wellbeing, refers not only to your identity, but also what matters to you and how you can live a happy life. People will often point out that this feeling of losing a compass to guide your life is what leads to drinking, depression and suicide.
He said that it is possible to improve mental health by restoring pride in Indigenous identity. He said that part of this is to integrate ritual and ceremonial practices into health care settings.
This has its difficulties, as he discovered while working with the Urban Indian Health Clinic of Detroit to integrate traditional healing. He had to consider which healing methods to choose, since they vary from one tribe to the next, because most urban Indian communities are multitribal.
One solution was to create a sweat lodge. This is a group of different religious practices like prayer, pipe ceremonies and pipe ceremony.
2. Black youth are needed to address online racism and mental health.
Brendesha Tynes shared another speaker’s research on the connection between online racism, depressive and anxious symptoms in Black youth.
Tynes is a professor of psychology and education at the University of Southern California. She conducted a study of more than 1000 students in grades 6-12. It found that 559 of them were harassed or cyberbullied online. It was also apparent that victims and those suffering from depression are often in a reciprocal relationship.
She spoke at the conference about a study on critical race digital literacy, and the links between negative race-related tech experiences and mental health outcomes including suicidal ideastion, trauma, depressive symptoms and anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTSD).
Although the study is still in progress, preliminary results show that there are associations between online racism and suicide thoughts.
Her research revealed that young people are more likely to experience online racial discrimination or traumatic events online. This includes images and videos of racial terror, such as police racial violence. These experiences can lead to depression, PTSD symptoms, anxiety, trauma, anxiety, as well as suicide ideation.
span style=”font weight: 400 We know that people have used dehumanizing imagery to justify slavery. She said that they have used dehumanizing messaging in order to justify all types of terror against Black people.” “This (online discrimination is another example that has been modified for the 21st Century, and that kind of reduces the impact that the message or image can have on their mental Health span>
Tynes stated that social media algorithms can make it more discriminatory to Black youth by giving them more of the harmful content. According to her research, people who discover online racism and algorithmic bias one day will experience more depressive symptoms the following day. Online discrimination, algorithmic bias and traumatic events online caused anxiety symptoms.
She believes the manuscript will be available in spring. She wants the findings to be applied immediately, with a focus on Black youth experiences and not clinicians trying to immediately implement new strategies.
span style=”font weight: 400 ;”>” We need to consider the experiences of Black youth in any discussion about equity in mental health apps and mental health care they have access to. She said that people need to have a deeper understanding of Black youth’s online lives if they are to improve mental health equity.
3. Racial and ethnic identity, its effects on mental health and alcohol cravings
Priscilla Luu, an associate professor in psychology at Southern Methodist University, Texas, spoke about mental health disparities among different ethnicities, and whether alcohol abuse is linked to discrimination.
During her talk she pointed out that even ordinary discrimination like micro-aggressions should not be overlooked when considering young people’s mental well-being.
The World Health Organization states that adolescents of marginalized racial or sexual backgrounds are more likely to develop mental health problems. This is partly due to the way they internalize and externalize symptoms.
Liu’s research focuses on how alcohol craving affects racial discrimination, the experiences of marginalized communities and ethnic minorities. One study looked at the effects of virtual reality on participants of all races, 18-30, who identified as ethnic minorities.
span style=”font weight: 400 In our study, participants were subject to discrimination by the avatar in virtual reality. These were minor discrimination experiences, Liu stated.
The stress levels of the participants were then monitored.
span style=”font weight: 400 We found that people who were exposed to discrimination had statistically significantly higher stress levels than people who were subject to interactions that provoked their thinking about daily stresses, such as school-related stressors and work-related stressors.” Liu stated.
The researchers did not find support for the hypothesis that those who were discriminated against in the study would have higher alcohol cravings.
Liu suggested that there could be many reasons, such as the fact that people who are experiencing stress may not view alcohol as a coping strategy.
Liu stated that after gaining a better understanding about the effects of racial disparity on minorities, follow-up research will be able to pinpoint individual experiences of discrimination and their effects on different groups.