Experts blame social media for serious mental health issues

SOCIAL media was one of the main causes of more than 1300 Sunshine Coast children a year seeking help for serious mental health issues, experts have said.

Figures from the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health service reveal that 110 new referrals were received each month for people aged up to 18 who are "experiencing serious and complex mental health issues".

Sunshine Coast Child and Youth Mental Health Service's John Pearson said body image was becoming increasingly a "difficult and complex issue" for children.

"More and more kids are influenced by what people think because of social media," he said.

The service has recorded a 300% surge in calls for help from young women battling eating disorders and body image issues.

"There has been a significant growth in the presentation of eating disorders amongst young woman," Mr Pearson said.

"It affects the 13- to 18-year-old age group most and is a very complex health and medical issue which is very complicated to manage."

Clinical psychologist Cameron Aggs from Maroochydore's Mindful Therapy Psychology Services also said social media was contributing to mental health issues with youth.

"There are pressures associated with social media in that they are breeding 24/7 social comparisons and provide exposure to bullying," he said.

"Social media can be positive, but if you are socially awkward, it can be a vehicle of negative social comparison."

Of the young people referred for treatment, about 30% were considered complex and required ongoing case management and therapy, the figures show.

And every weekend, as many as five youths present at the Nambour Emergency Department needing urgent attention after they have self-harmed, overdosed or been involved in risk-taking behaviour.

If you need help contact Lifeline on 131 114 or KidsHelp on 1800 551 800.

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