New Maui nonprofit sheds light on tech addiction, other mental health issues

New Maui nonprofit sheds light on tech addiction, other mental health issues
Image credit: DTS Creative Community.

Some people check their phones more than 160 times a day.

Those statistics and other information about the addictive nature of technology were highlighted during a “Tech Addiction” workshop held by Hauʻoli Piha, a new non-profit organization in Maui that aims to improve mental health among the population.

Last week’s “Tech Addiction” focused on technology pervasive in society since the digital revolution and how it affects people, especially young people.

Psychologist Dr. Sean O’Hara, certified in Hawaii and California, along with Michelle Navarro Ishiki, a licensed clinical social worker and certified substance abuse counselor in Hawaii, are featured.

The two discussed the negative effects of technology on medical and psychological health.

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People nowadays are rarely “offline” due to regular texts, emails, app alerts, phone calls and other features.

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Even more than that, social media can reinforce the fear of missing out.

Speakers said FOMO is a pervasive fear that others may have missed rewarding experiences that are driven by social anxiety and a desire to stay in constant contact. It has been linked to increased alcohol intake.

Aside from the effects on the individual, social media may harm relationships.

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For example, 33% of divorced couples in the US and 20% of divorced couples in the UK indicated that Facebook was to blame for the split, the speakers said.

Easy access to past relationships or even strangers increases temptation, inappropriate messages, constant interest, and shallow-versus-real intimacy, and can distract couples from real issues. Jealousy, trust, and suspicious behaviors are also magnified.

In some cases, technology has led to dangerous behaviors and even death.

Speakers said that in 2015 a 12-year-old Colorado girl tried to poison her mother with bleach to take her cell phone. That same year, a 17-year-old boy murdered his parents and sister after they took his cell phone and computer. A high-speed chase with police outside Baltimore, Maryland, led to his death.

It’s been more than 20 years since the beginning of the digital age, and O’Hara said the presentation is a reflection of the issues that still affect us today.

“(It’s) what we all deal with in our offices, in our schools, in our clinical practices, we see this in our workplace, and we also see this in our families,” he said. This is not some information that should be alien to anyone. These are very modern, very modern and very modern things.”

He added that the pandemic has compounded the dark sides of technology addiction and cybercrime, including bullying, stalking and sexting, “which have been quite rampant since the quarantine.”

Navarro Ishiki asked participants to be aware of how often they check their phones during the presentation or during the day.

Were we aware of how connected we were with our devices? She asked.

Hau’oli Piha’s online and in-person educational workshops kicked off Thursday with “Technology Addiction” and “The Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder.”

It runs Thursday from 9am to 3pm with “cyberbullying, cyberstalking, texting, and the law.”

On Friday, a personal training session from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday at the J. Walter Cameron Center entitled “Malama I Na Kahu Malama”. The cost is $50.

The topics included in the session will be “Self-Care: Why is it Important for Providers?” ; “Ethics of self-care”; “Introduction to Therapeutic Music”; and “Mass trauma (and/or grief) and epidemic.”

The non-profit Hau’oli Piha seeks to connect people with resources that relieve mental health pain, improve joy and help people stay connected with one another. For more information about the organization, visit its website.

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