Gil Mildar
As the song says, a Latin American with no money in his pocket.

Echoes of Silence: Unveiling the Hidden Turmoil of Our Youth’s Mental Health

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I find myself as an uncomfortable variety, overflowing with contradictions of every kind. I am a mosaic of paradoxes, each piece seemingly challenging the logic of the one before it. A walking enigma, a collection of opposites that somehow coexist in the same space. Within this labyrinth of contradictions, every step appears to lead to a new self-discovery, a fresh question, a novel doubt. Through this journey, I’ve learned to embrace my internal diversity, this multiplicity that constitutes me, for it is there that my true essence resides, an inconsistent being, yet profoundly human.

In my quest for truth amidst a sea of misinformation, I’ve encountered startling statistics from the US that paint a grim picture of our youth’s mental health. According to the CDC, 18.8% of American youth experienced major depression in 2021, and 8.9% attempted suicide. Optimistically imagining that Israel’s situation might mirror this, despite our wars and existential challenges, the figures are still horrifying. Regrettably, there seems to be no significant public initiative to address this crisis.

Dr. Yael Kaynan, an expert on social media and youth, echoes these concerns with her insightful analysis of how the addictive nature of social platforms plays a significant role in exacerbating this dire situation. She highlights the algorithmic manipulation that ensnares young individuals, often jeopardizing their mental health and fostering a cycle of dependency and psychological decline.

In New York, a courageous step has been taken against this bleak backdrop: the city has initiated legal action against social media giants, accusing them of exploiting the mental health of the young. This lawsuit underscores the hefty price — estimated at $100 million annually in mental health services — that the platforms’ negligence exacts on society. It serves as a clarion call for the urgent need for regulation akin to the stringent restrictions on tobacco advertising.

Here in Israel, expecting our valiant army also to educate our children on responsible social media usage is preposterous. It’s sufficient that they prepare them to be accountable and resilient Israelis. Like other democracies, Israeli society is confronted with the critical challenge of mitigating the devastating effects of social media on the mental health of its youth. We stand on the brink of nurturing a generation that is depressed and prone to suicide without implementing effective countermeasures.

This issue is a colossal burden we are passing on to future generations. Considering the measures taken in New York and the analyses by experts like Dr. Kaynan, it becomes evident that public oversight of social media and its algorithms is not just necessary but imperative. The lack of action in this area not only highlights the disregard for the mental health of our youth but also raises questions about the very fabric of what we are evolving into as a society.

About the Author
As a Brazilian, Jewish, and humanist writer, I embody a rich cultural blend that influences my worldview and actions. Six years ago, I made the significant decision to move to Israel, a journey that not only connects me to my ancestral roots but also positions me as an active participant in an ongoing dialogue between the past, present, and future. My Latin American heritage and life in Israel have instilled a deep commitment to diversity, inclusion, and justice. Through my writing, I delve into themes of authoritarianism, memory, and resistance, aiming not just to reflect on history but to actively contribute to the shaping of a more just and equitable future. My work is an invitation for reflection and action, aspiring to advance human dignity above all.
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