From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Only YOU can protect your mental health!
dispute that we live in stressful times. Turn on the television and you can
co-experience almost any kind of misery. The media constantly bombards us
with messages of fear and violence, both fictional and non-fictional. Many
people worry that the media is unhealthy for children who may grow up with a
warped view of the world. Beyond this concern for children, we should be equally
concerned about adult mental health. What happens to us when we listen to too
many terrible stories? Here are my thoughts.
- Thereís too much news.
I am all for being fully and truthfully informed, but watching the same news
story over and over again isnít healthy or necessary. Human beings learn very
quickly. We donít need to watch the same dreadful stories repeatedly.
Television is very hypnotic and media professionals know how to get our
- There are too many drug
ads. Human beings are susceptible to suggestion. When pharmaceutical
advertisements list symptoms, our minds absorb this information and our
imaginations can go wild. We donít need more things to worry about. We should
pursue medical care when our bodies tell us to, not when advertisers tell us
to ask our doctors for their name brand medication.
- Stress gets absorbed in
your mind and your body. The effect of all this bad news is that it can
actually make you sick. Current theories suggest that stress is a major
culprit in creating a chemical imbalance in the brain that results in
depression. Stress increases our likelihood of becoming ill, and stress slows
down our healing time. So be aware that the price of watching commercial
television these days has increased greatly. We are increasingly exposed to
more sales pitches, more frequently and more dramatically. Think about your
own emotional reactions to certain commercials. Do they ever make you feel
sad, angry or worried?
- We must learn to be
optimists again. It is up to each one of us to take more control over
whether we allow ourselves to get upset. Dr. John Gottman found that happily
married couples communicate five positive messages for every one negative
message between them. Perhaps we should expose ourselves to five positive news
stories for every one negative story. If we wish to protect ourselves, we must
realize that we are the only ones who can control the amount and type
of information that we are exposed to. Lest you think I donít care for the
daily news, rest assured that I do. What troubles me is that in the span of
time from 6:00 to 8:00 in the morning, I can easily see the same news report
As a child, I
could not watch the news at all without becoming frightened that every bad thing
might happen to me. At the time, I was sure this only happened to me. But
following 9/11, when we all watched the attacks on the World Trade Center over
and over, researchers studied the impact of the media on children and low and
behold, they found important differences in the way that children and adults
reacted to tragic news. In short, while adults understood that they were
watching the same two buildings under attack, researchers found that many
children watching the attack on the twin towers believed that every image of an
airplane crashing into a building was a new airplane crashing into another
building. To them, buildings were being attacked continuously and
remember that in our role as consumers, it is important to be both accurately
informed and careful about the information we absorb. We donít have to
experience trauma directly to develop post-traumatic stress. When we empathize,
we are subject to second-hand trauma. Perhaps we should add one more disclaimer
to our television sets: WARNING: ONLY YOU CAN PROTECT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.
©Copyright, 2006, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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