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New film focuses on teen mental health and technology

Posted: 7:29 PM, Oct 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-15 23:04:45-04

WHITEFISH BAY — Teens and technology are a combination causing a spike in mental health issues.

A new documentary called "Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER" explores depression and anxiety and teens and how those digital screens around us can impact them. It aims to help parents and educators find a balance.

Dominican High School will show the movie on Tuesday night at 7:00.

"I would say student mental health and their relationships with themselves and other people is probably the biggest concern that I think most principals have today," said Principal Edward Foy.

He went on to say the topics are more relevant now than ever.

"It's like my downtime after school, like either nap or instantly get on social media like scrolling Instagram," said student Kailah Malone.

Malone and Noraclare O'Neill are both seniors at Dominican High School. They were open in talking about the mental health challenges they face themselves and how being online can stress those feelings.

"It like solidifies what you say in your head to yourself and when other people say it just really hits you," said O'Neill.

"Whether it's good or bad," Malone agreed.

The two teens joined the REDgen club at school to help their peers feel comfortable and safe talking about mental health.

"Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER" follows Dr. Delaney Ruston as she tries to help her own kids as they struggle with their emotional well-being. She works to understand the challenges the new digital world brings forth and how parents and teachers can help teens overcome them.

"When I’m talking to students it’s pretty common to hear that students may be using social media until late hours of the night and that definitely can affect their mood, their ability to stay focused in class, and it also can correlate with some depression and anxiety," said Caitlyn Cheslock, a school counselor at Dominican.

To manage technology and mental health Cheslock advised families and parents to have conversations with their students about how they are using social media. Whether it means setting curfews or a "phone-free room" where they can decompress could help.

"Also, have critical conversations with children about what they see on social media is a very idealized version of their peers because especially in adolescence students do tend to compare themselves to others," Cheslock said.

A group called REDgen organized the movie screening. They advocate for youth mental health and wellness and hope this film can start a conversation.

"Truly empower themselves and learn about how technology and the impacts the brain, impact relationships, impacts our families, so they are empowered as parents to then be able to set boundaries are healthy for their family," said Brooke Talbot, executive director for REDgen.