From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Only YOU can protect your mental health!

            Few would 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.

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 everywhere!

We must 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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