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Congratulations to Zaytun Shah

We are delighted to announce the winner of this year's Liam McCarthy Scholarship as Zaytun Shah from Kilkenny.

Zaytun was awarded the scholarship at the National Counselling & Psychotherapy Conference. The award itself is a tribute to a man who believed passionately in personal development, and he knew that continuing, adult education could be a central element in that development for many people. One of his visions was to open up third level education to a wider pool of mature students, who might not have otherwise seen themselves as getting a degree. Liam was also known for maintaining high academic standards, and he set that standard by his own example. He also believed in providing students with a broad education in what is after all a very broad field. The degree he designed, and which Middlesex University validated, is therefore characterised by an integrative approach to counselling & psychotherapy training. Moreover, the Diploma in Counselling & Psychotherapy which is awarded after Year 3, is fully accredited the IACP.

 

Congratulations Zaytun, we wish you the best of luck in your studies

 

The internet provides both risks and benefits for people with mental health problems

What do we know about the internet?  It’s made up of physical components, yet its interaction is in a virtual domain. It inhabits a world of its own where transactions and exchanges takes place at rapid speed all over the world. Deemed to be a ‘super highway of information’ it transcends both its users and its universe.  What is all this influx of information doing to us as we attempt to assimilate it?  It competes endlessly with its own effectiveness as it flourishes; does it make us more efficient and are we becoming academic intellectuals as we’re swept along on a tsunami of information?  Devices become more compact, more advanced and more accessible and the smartphone has been reported to being “the modern compulsion” according to (Davis, ND).

 

As the efficiency of the internet has grown, its audience has simultaneously expanded.  The dynamics have changed, drastically.  Today the socialite, fashion gurus, marketing experts and all kinds of trendsetters thrive.  The moral fibre of its creation is permanently altered and its popularity destined for new arenas.  No longer an academic forum, its users now include all facets of society.  Its alluring texts and format hypnotise us and we become all too easily manipulated by its vivid images and flashing lights.  The underbelly of the beast has come into sight.  

 

According to Greenfield (as cited in Davis, N.D, ‘Hook or Habit’, para 3)

 While we're not seeing actual smartphone addictions now, the potential is certainly there.  Computer technologies can be addictive because they're ‘psychoactive’.  That is, they alter mood and often trigger enjoyable feelings.  A true addiction entails a growing tolerance to a substance (think drugs or alcohol) so you need more to get ‘high’, uncomfortable symptoms during withdrawal, and a harmful impact on your life.

 

Although the debate is whether or not the smartphone is an addition or an compulsion, it is clear the its users are seduced by sight and sound; attracted to risk –taking as its systems are set up to keep us ‘glued’ to the web.  More youthful audiences are encouraged to participate and become entrapped and wind up slaves to the system.  More and more time is spent improving ones efficiency of the technology.  Was the Web designed to keep us in the mode of interacting?  According to the (The Guardian, 2014, para 1), there are “seven digital deadly sins – pride, lust, greed, gluttony, envy, wrath and sloth”.  These ‘sins’ are not unfamiliar to us it is just that now it is much easier to delve deeper into vulnerabilities. 

With a push of a button we are bombarded with Facebook comments, emails, Twitter and Instagram accounts.  This interaction is encouraged by the media, both local and international.  The majority of entrepreneurs use it as a gateway to their source of income.  Many reputable companies see this as an ideal opportunity to avail of free advertising, in a forum devoid of cheques and balances. Without rules or regulations we tumble headlong into a void created by the inherent dangers of this uncontrolled medium.  Constant pressure is exerted on us to know what’s happening all over the world, instantaneously and this is clearly affecting us as we become aware of people with mental health difficulties.  Reports are on the increase of many young people, even those in primary schools, are experiencing depression.  Self - harm and suicide has become much more common in our culture and these phenomena are mounting at an alarming rate.

 

Although a darker side of the internet exists, it’s part of our daily lives.  The medium can be seen as a credible source of information and beneficial especially to mental health suffers.  Its application can be used positively in areas of mental health.  Although the internet cannot substitute personal consultation, it can however make it easier for people to access credible consultants online since individuals with mental health issues find it challenging to seek professional consultation;According to Wang, et al (2005), few people with mental health disorders consult mental health professionals.

 

Online services should be complementarily to existing services, with the intention of widening the field of consultation.  Absolute care should be taken when offering online consultation since the user may find conflicting information. According to Toms & Latter (2007), as cited in Hinnovic (2011, The Internet as a Credible Source of Information on Mental Health, Para 1),

the determination of credibility of the information is based on visual aspects as well as the language used and the ease of navigation; psychologists should be aware of imprecise or erroneous information does not reach a very large audience, but also tends to be taken at face value.

 

With the internet presenting new opportunities, caution needs to be applied in the application and use of this fluid, volatile medium.  Studies have shown that online therapies are more effective than waiting lists or supportive therapy; insuring that the information available is of high quality.  Due to high volume of patients waiting in Doctor’s surgeries, perhaps online consultation is the future to the medical profession.

 

In conclusion, we are left to ponder as to whether the internet is a help or a hindrance, a blessing or a curse?  Is regulation the way to balance the usefulness of proactive organisations against the need to protect the vulnerable from their own irresponsibility and ease of access? As an entity, the internet lacks balance in its content and if we wish to progress, it becomes incumbent on a caring society to educate individual users, making them aware of the benefits and also of the hazards involved.  In an ideal scenario this will be of enormous benefit to mankind and to the type of world we choose to inhabit.  But let me add a final word of caution; please don’t allow progress to be detrimental to our well being.  Mental health is integral to the survival of the human spirit and it is our duty to ensure we do all in our power to help achieve this objective.

 

References

Davis, S. (N.D). Addicted to your smartphone? Here's what to do. http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/addicted-your-smartphone-what-to-do

Hinnovic. (2011). Mental health: What role can the internet play? http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/addicted-your-smartphone-what-to-do

The Guardian. (2014). The seven deadly sins – interactive. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/ng-interactive/2014/jun/06/-sp-digital-deadly-sins

Wang, P. S., Berglund, P., Olfson, M., Pincus, H. A., Wells, K. B., & Kessler, R. C. (2005). Failure and delay in initial treatment contact after first onset of mental disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 603-613.

 

 

 

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