Social Media and Mental Health—Part One
Social media has spread far and wide. In 2017, 2.46 billion people used social media, or 71% of all internet users. With nearly three-quarters of the online population using social media, how does this positively or negatively affect mental health, it’s perception, and expectations revolving around mental health?
Social media has its pros and cons relating to mental health. In this two-part blog entry, these advantages and disadvantages will be highlighted, with some advantages discussed in this entry, Part One.
Social media has opened an entirely new avenue of asking for and receiving help. It’s easier than ever to send a message or receive one from a friend asking, “How are you?” It may not seem like much but often the smallest things make the biggest difference. It’s become easier than ever to stay connected to friends and family, for users to notice posts that may be hinting at depression, anxiety or even suicide, and to offer help.
Social media has made it easier than ever to talk about mental conditions, hardships, and the challenges that we face. Social media is diminishing the stigma surrounding mental health, as users share their experiences, talk about situations that they face, and social media pages share quotes and relatable posts surrounding mental illness, all of which slowly but surely reduce the stigma.
Users can follow inspirational pages to see motivating posts everyday on their feed or wall. They can join social media support groups to learn about self-help techniques and connect with others who are suffering mental conditions. Social media also makes it easier than ever to realize that you are not alone in your battle against mental illness.
Here’s a personal example. A few years ago, a friend told me about a Facebook mental-health support group. Shortly after, my friend introduced me to someone—let’s call him “Tom”—that’s close to my age and who lives half-way around the world. Tom was going through a really rough time.
After becoming friends, Tom revealed to me that he was facing severe depression and felt like he had no one to turn to. Tom said that he was considering ending his life. Through my help and that of other support group members, Tom was able to fight his depression and suicidal thoughts, and he eventually overcame both.
(Individuals suffering from mental illness should always seek professional help, too.)
Unfortunately, people often feel as if they have no one in their lives to turn to; this is where social media tends to be helpful. I encourage everyone struggling with mental illness to make use of the benefits that social media has given us: join support groups, follow inspirational pages, and connect with others who may be facing shared challenges.
“When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘We,’ even ‘Illness’ becomes ‘Wellness’—Malcolm X