The Mass Discussion of Mental Health

Sophie Bond - Writer

It is no secret that the topic of mental health is prevalent in our social media lives. It’s like social media is being used as a diary for the expression of people’s feelings; providing an alternative public outlet to speaking about their problems with other people in person. With the amount of people with mental health issues on the rise (according to Young Minds), is this potential platform for problems helping those suffering or is it making matters worse?

It is important to realise that there are many benefits of people expressing the way they feel online because there are many supportive voices and organisations out there who can give you advice or just to listen. Not only that but it can also be a way to spread awareness of different conditions like anxiety, depression and eating disorders, so someone struggling in silence may possibly find the courage to open up themselves and get the help they need. Mittal et al (2007) explain that social media is a way for people to find others who feel a similar way to them and suffer with the same illness; benefiting from group participation, while remaining anonymous allowing them to avoid rejection and disapproval which people may fear in human interaction (Link et al, 1997). Not to mention that some disorders such as anxiety, social anxiety in particular, can cause a fear interacting with others face-to-face anyway, so being pushed to tell someone something so personal could make the illness even more severe. Naslund et al (2016) state that this form of interaction can help change the stigma on mental health, making it be perceived as more normal and less shameful. Often knowing that you are not alone in the way you are feeling, and that lots of other people also have similar feelings to you can help you to communicate your feelings and feel less isolated and lonely. This, therefore, implies that using social media as a support network is beneficial for mental health illness sufferers.

However, it has also been suggested that social media has had negative impacts on people’s mental health, sometimes causing these illnesses to develop or worsen. In fact, Sabrina Barr has come up with 6 ways in which social media affects your mental health for The Independent. The first one on the list is self esteem. Apps like Instagram can knocking your self-esteem, especially when following so many ‘influencers’ who either look insanely put together, have enough money to change their body, or use apps to edit photos to the way they want the photo to look. When people see these photos they often compare themselves to it and lose any kind of self esteem because they do not look like the image in front of them. It is important to remember that it is not often these people naturally look like they do in photos, but in the moment when seeing these insanely beautiful people it can be hard to remember that. This can lead to depression because people start to hate themselves for not looking that way, or even eating disorders where people desperately try to get to an unrealistic state which the person in the photo probably isn’t even at themselves. Barr uses the example of ‘Facebook envy’, meaning that the users feel more satisfied with their lives, particularly from the approval and appreciation from others but also measure our worth based on likes. However, when one status or photo doesn’t get many likes, it can be disheartening and upsetting when that’s how you have learnt to measure your worth and value.

In addition, Barr also emphasised how social media can affect the amount of sleep you get. Regardless of the fact that devices let off the blue light that keeps you stimulated and awake, heightened anxiety can leave you awake at night worrying about what someone else might be saying or if you’re being left out of a conversation. Also, arguments are often caused by people on social media because they are able to hide behind a screen and become a braver person without having to deal with face-to-face confrontation; so called keyboard warriors are particularly present on apps like Twitter where most people don’t know the majority of their followers or the people trying to communicate with them. Some people are able to brush this kind of thing off, but for someone with an already fragile mental state, it can knock it even further and worsen their mental health. Or even for people who haven’t previously had mental health issues, repeated arguments and cyber-bullying can easily cause someone’s mindset to deteriorate. This, therefore, suggests that social media can cause a lot of negative outcomes for mental health and perhaps with awareness rising, people should learn to be kinder on social media, but unfortunately not every person is a good person.

Consequently, social media plays both a positive and negative role in the development of mental health illnesses. It can be a really good way of looking for help if you find the right groups of people and find those who are feeling a similar way. However, there are always going to be aspects of it that do make people feel bad about themselves and will drag people down rather than build them up. Therefore, it is always important to be wary and consider what kinds of things you want to view online, because models may not be the thing you’d want to see when feeling bad about your weight or the way you look. Also, sometimes being openly opinionated can cause arguments online where some people have the potential to be incredibly cruel and cause high anxiety. The most important thing is to be kind and check up on people who you think may be suffering because you don’t know how much that could help someone in need.

References: [accessed 23/9/19]
Naslund, J., Aschbrenner, K., Marsch, L. and Bartels, S. (2016). The future of mental health care: peer-to-peer support and social media. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 25(2), pp.113-122. [accessed 23/9/19]
Photo credit: Aliyah Jampus:


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