Teens Identifying as “Mentally Ill,” the Latest Social Media Trend

 In Articles, Drenda On Guard, Family

Parents, are you aware of the latest social media phenomenon targeting teens? The contagion involves the adoption of mental illness identities on social media platforms TikTok and Instagram. You know when our youth are seeking to simultaneously “fit in” while “appearing unique” through fantasized clinical disorders, we have a serious crisis in our culture.

Once stigmatized, mental illness is now glamorized as teens are posting videos “acquiring millions of views,” which showcase self-diagnosed, rare mental disorders with hashtags such as  #DID and #BPD. Clips include mimicking the tic-like gestures of Tourette’s syndrome and “switching alters,” symptomatic of dissociative identity disorder with multiple personalities. Videos featuring more common disorders such as “anxiety, depression, eating disorders, autism, and gender identity-related conditions” are likewise prevalent.

Some have coined the trend as part of “TikTok’s sick-role subculture.” “Sick” is right!

This phenomenon was the subject of a recent paper published in Comprehensive Psychiatry, which expressed an “urgent need to understand the magnitude and developmental significance of social media use on mental health.” Some believe this trend is problematic because it may cause those with genuine mental health issues “to avoid seeking help” and may cause individuals to exaggerate their symptoms as they “become socially incentivized to signal their disorder to others.”

While I agree that these are legitimate concerns, we cannot fail to recognize the most crucial issue is that our children are desperately crying out for help. And the only answer is Jesus Christ.

As I discussed in my book, Fight Like Heaven! A Cultural Guide to Living on Guard, suicide is the number two killer of youth and young adults between the ages of 10-14 and 25-34. One in four youth said they had entertained thoughts of suicide in 2021. 

WE HAVE TO WAKE UP! Our children are taking their lives in record numbers, a quarter of them are having suicidal thoughts, and now many are adopting identities based on debilitating mental illnesses!

This is a spiritual issue! Many of our teens simply haven’t heard the true Gospel, much less received a revelation of their true identity in Christ. The world is offering them a perverse sense of love, community, and admiration through the celebration of sickness and disease

What are WE—parents, believers, and the church—doing to show them the true love of God, the abundant life?

What can we do?

As parents, we must be vigilant in monitoring our children’s social media. What are they posting? What do they see and hear in their feeds? Who can or is directly messaging them? How often are they on social media? While TikTok and Instagram are rated 12+, there is literally no limit to the depravity of the content that a user can post. 

Better yet, I challenge you to commit to getting yourself and your children off of your phones, iPads, and TV screens and spending more time with each other, seeking adventure and creating memories!

Most importantly, we as parents must put God first, model the Kingdom of God in our families, and make disciples of our children. This means getting on your knees for your children, making the Word a priority, and demonstrating the fruits of the Holy Spirit in your home. If you as parents are not on track in your relationship with God, make it right. Your children will follow you as you follow Him. And they will bring other kids along.

In December of 2022, God was clear with me personally that I must get focused on reaching this generation with the Gospel as never before. I believe this is His word to the entire church. 

As pastors and church leaders, we can no longer expect to reach our youth for the Kingdom with “church as usual.” We need to pull out all the stops and hold nothing back! 

I am certainly not saying to make church worldly, but we must make it appealing. Satan has a better marketing campaign for a faulty product, but we have the guarantee! We have to meet youth where they are and show them that following Christ brings peace, favor, and a happy life.

Jesus said,Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’” (Matthew 19:14, NIV). I believe that if we seek the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and creativity on how to demonstrate the full Gospel to this generation, we will see the biggest harvest of youth for the Kingdom that’s ever been witnessed! 

To learn more about the seven mountains of influence, including media, the family, and how we can take them both back for the Kingdom of God, get your copy of Fight Like Heaven!

Need a quicker read? Check out A Call to Arms: Your Quick Start to Fight Like Heaven!  You will find a brief teaching on the seven mountains of influence, specific instructions for spiritual warfare and intercession over these areas, and recommendations for personal strategies to impact these spheres for the Kingdom of God. When you purchase a bundle, A Call to Arms is perfect to use as an evangelism tool and/or study with your small group.

Finally, be sure to SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel, Drenda on Guard, where you will hear the uncensored truth and a Kingdom perspective on news and current events that affect you.

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