How Radio Can Improve Mental Health
As a broadcasting consultant with more than 30 years in the industry, I stay up to date with the industry trades about ratings, station deals, financial reports, FCC changes, and so on. I am also a licensed psychotherapist, and read articles and journals on psychology and behavioral health topics. The broadcasting industry and behavioral health can help each other.
It might interest you to know that recent research by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of America (BCBSA) shows that excessive time spent on social media, texting, and playing video games is the biggest cause of obesity, behavior problems, social anxiety, and depression1. The behavioral health industry writes a lot and provides resources on how to eliminate excessive electronic device use in order to get the younger generation of “digital natives” to use their imaginations, play outside, and engage in activities with friends. BCBSA also reports that more than nine million Americans with health insurance have been diagnosed with major depression. Another source reports that social media is the leading cause of depression in middle age2.
At the same time that technology industries are developing ways to engage a greater audience through their devices, the behavioral health industry is developing ways to combat the negative impact that the amount of screen time is having on people’s lives.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of America (BCBSA) Study
- Major depression cases have risen by 33 percent since 2013
- Teens and millennials show the largest jump in diagnoses
- Doctors are looking at increased use of social media and electronics as a cause
What can radio do to help?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the broadcast industry would become the healthy choice for entertainment and important information? “That’s ludicrous,” I can hear you say. Think again.
I admit that I’m an idealist, but that doesn’t mean I am impractical. I see a big picture solution and want to believe that I can help get everyone on board. I’m also an old school, traditional radio broadcast native. I have childhood memories of my Dad taking me to work with him and I’d play with my Barbie dolls in one of the KHJ studios while he worked his shift running the board. Radio stations are my home.
Recently I’ve been listening to the “70s on 7” channel on a trial satellite radio subscription I received when I leased my car. When the free subscription is over, it’ll be back to my favorite terrestrial radio stations. The songs from the 70s have been so much fun to rediscover and provide glimpses of my memories growing up in the San Fernando Valley suburb of Los Angeles.
Radio was everywhere. We could listen to it in our car and everyone would enjoy the music together. We could play it on our stereos at home and on the beach (if our batteries lasted). As we walked along the beach in Santa Monica or Malibu, we’d hear songs on people’s radios while they played in the surf and sun. Whenever we went to the park we brought a boom box and listened to our favorite stations, singing along while playing Frisbee or shooting hoops. We built relationships that are now easily recalled because of the music we heard on the radio. We also had “virtual relationships” with the disc jockeys as they kept us company, spoke about current happenings and events, and gave us juicy tidbits about our favorite bands.
Yes, things have changed.
In today’s media landscape, we spend copious amounts of screen time checking emails and social media, posting pictures, and sharing blogs and articles. Kids at home ‒ whether they are small children or teenagers, and even 20-somethings ‒ spend a lot of time watching videos on their tablets, playing video games, and chatting with their friends … in isolation. All the trends show that technology is taking us into an entirely different sphere, and it continues to change every micro-second. At the same time, the number of kids and young adults that are being treated for anxiety, depression, stress and loneliness increases. Psychologists recognize that the isolation resulting from overuse of electronic devices often leads to anxiety and depression.
What can you, as an individual, do?
In the broadcasting field, we spend too much time on devices; that’s all we think about. It’s the nature of business today. Something you can do right now is to reduce your own screen time. See how it feels to disconnect with your “connected world.” Make conscious choices about when to shut it all off, not check emails, not check social media, not scroll the internet, not play on your apps. Decide to unplug and just … stop. With practice, you’ll be amazed at how much better you will begin to feel.
Radio isn’t what it used to be, so stop chasing your tail!
While your listeners are spending increasingly more time on their devices, tablets and smart phones, they’re not living their lives the way that is healthy. They need socialization, and enjoying music together is an answer. But what will it take to bring radio into the lives of today’s digital natives? They haven’t experienced radio the way earlier generations did. Today they put their ear buds in and find their favorite game, streaming music or social media platform, and are pretty mindless of what’s happening around them.
A broader solution
As you experience the benefits of unplugging and doing something good for your own well-being, you will realize that you can expand your influence to the bigger picture. What could happen if your company encouraged its audiences to unplug?
This isn’t a matter of just running a public service announcement or a campaign. Instead, use the powerful reach of radio to actually implement change; do something to give listeners a reason to be social, get out, and have fun. Devise a promotion or programming component that engages listeners to turn up the radio. Cause people to want to listen to radio while they play hoops at the park with friends, while they hang out by the pool or at the beach. Give them a reason to unplug from their tablets, smart phones and other devices and be in the real world, building relationships and memories, enhanced by the music they hear on the radio with their other friend … the local radio personality.
The broadcast industry can use their powerful voices to improve the lives of their listeners. Radio should capitalize on leading the shift away from overuse of devices. Radio can play a major role in replacing isolation with socialization. What would be the benefit to radio? It would increase brand loyalty, companionship, build upon relationships, potentially resulting in new programs for increased revenue, while promoting a service that will improve the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of your audience and your team.
Kelly Orchard is a professional speaker, author and trainer. In addition to more than 30 years in the business of broadcasting, she has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership. Kelly specializes in working with radio groups and individuals in times of trouble, turmoil and transition, by creating a positive and profitable workplace. She is a 2008 graduate of the NABEF Broadcast Leadership Training Program, among others. She is also an FCC Compliance Specialist and licensed psychotherapist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.