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More screen time during quarantine presents emotional and mental challenges

(Source: Zoom)
(Source: Zoom)(KMVT)
Published: May. 29, 2020 at 6:22 PM CDT
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The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the way we communicate. For example, Zoom or Facetime has been how we connect to our loved ones. But without that face to face interaction -- even for therapists and their patients -- some challenges arise.

A panel of mental health experts joined NewsChannel 7 at 4 to discuss those challenges.

“The mental health community has warned for a long time that excessive screen time is not good for us, and in a stroke of irony, here we are spending all this screen time,” said Rick Jass, counselor and president at Charis Counseling.

Jass said on one hand it’s physically trying on your eyes and on the other you have a problem connecting to a 2D version of your loved ones.

“It’s harder to process a lot of social cues. There can be an altered tone of the voice or body language is hard to read,” he said.

That can be especially difficult for therapists who are doing virtual mental health sessions with their patients.

“Seeing yourself on screen can make you more self-conscience. A lot of times I’ll just tell people to turn off that little thing at the bottom of your screen where you see yourself, so we can just see each other.”

Dr. Brian Weiland, a psychologist at Behavioral Health Clinic said he’s noticed more fatigue set in by just seeing a few more patients virtually.

“There’s just so much to attend to. You can’t really tell if the person’s looking at you, are they looking away, is this a silent moment, or you might be getting some notifications popping up on your screen,” Dr. Weiland added.

Judy Lemke is a counselor at Behavioral Health Clinic. She pointed out that there are some positives to the screen interaction.

“A lot of our clients are more comfortable talking out of their home environment,” Lemke said.

But Jass made a point to mention that the same challenges of connection arise for friends and family members talking through a screen.

“One of the things that I recommend is maybe try doing an activity. Maybe play a game together over a Zoom call if you want to do that,” Jass said. “Otherwise for people in your own family, take breaks from it. Just give yourself the room to do that, because you are more mentally and emotionally fatigued with those times in front of the screen.”

Lee Shipway referenced a study that was put out showing that kids who have seven or more hours of screen time a day are twice as likely to eventually get anxiety or depression. Shipway is a clinical social worker at Peaceful Solutions Counseling.

“Not just kids, it can happen to adults as well,” Shipway said.

“It’s hard work. It takes more attention and more focus that’s really tiring for us emotionally,” Jass added.

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