Currently over 2.25 billion people worldwide have at least one social media account, whilst it is believed that the average person has an average of seven accounts……the figure of people worldwide with a social media account is expected to rise to 3.1 billion.
I am just one of those 2.25 billion with a social media account, I don’t quite fall into the category of people with 7 social media accounts but I quite happily admit to have three live accounts with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Having worked within media it isd essential in today’s society to be ‘connected’, however is social media good for us when struggling with Mental Health issues?
It is estimated that one in four people currently suffer a mental health illness…. that’s 562 million of those 2.25 billion people with social media accounts. Through various physical illnesses I have struggled with mental health issues and received several batches of counselling. Without wishing to go to personal into my experience I have often used social media as a tool to show that illnesses and setbacks in life do not define us and we all have a positive contribution in this world regardless of our situation. In general it has been a positive for me, however there are concerns that social media is having a negative impact on sufferers, despite it being heavily used to promote awareness of mental health.
Ironically, I used my social media accounts to ask ‘friends and connections’ what they thought regarding the question of social media and the impact it has on our mental health. The result was overwhelming with 85% of my contacts believing that social media is having a negative impact…. but why?
In general, the belief was that people are using social media to compare their lives with others online, whether it be friends or celebrities. One user Gareth said “it gives people an opportunity to have a negative outlook on their own lives based on other peoples posts…which probably are not even a reflection of their life”, adding “it is dull of trolls that are ready to jump on any situation someone is going through”.
Another user Dan said “It breeds false lifestyles and people losing sight of what’s important, too many people aspiring to be people they shouldn’t be and seeing likes/publicity as endorsement”.
But if it is so bad for us, how comes charities that are formed to support people with mental health issues are continuously pushing their campaigns on our social media platforms….quite simply it comes down to the easiest way to access those suffering. As mentioned with so many user’s social media is a way of accessing billions of people and in most cases for free. Mental Health Charity Mind say on their website that their social media platforms are “to provide a space where we can share what we're up to and hear your views about mental health. We monitor our social media channels regularly and our communications team share responsibility for moderating Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis”.
Head of parents services at the charity Young Minds, Jo Hardy says ““We think it’s important to remember the positives about the online world, as well as the negatives, and to take a balanced, collaborative approach. We as parents can’t police everything our children do online, but we can keep the lines of communication open and help them understand how to manage what they’re doing online in a positive way.”
“t’s important that we don’t simply blame social media for the current crisis. Having a difficult start in life – whether that’s because of growing up in poverty, or experiencing abuse, discrimination or bereavement – can have a huge impact on mental health. There are also many other factors that put pressure on our children.
Whilst my poll didn’t get much support in the way of a positive response many users acknowledged the positives of social media when used correctly and also how it helps connect people that might otherwise be un-contactable with one user claiming “It is catch 22, without social media the world can be a lonely place”.
Personally, I believe Social Media can still have a positive impact on those people struggling with mental health, it can be a safe place for people to seek confidential help, it can provide a platform to share how you are feeling and you can take inspiration from those suffering like yourself.
There is no doubt that it must be balanced with other methods that can help our mental health such as socialising, regular exercise and eating healthily, however managed correctly I believe it has a place in making a difference and improving the mental health of those struggling.
NB: Please note that this is an opinion piece and the views are my own unless otherwise stated. Anybody that is struggling with their own mental health should seek support which can be reached via the Samaritans on 115 123.
Young Minds . (2019). New guide for parents on social media and mental health. Available: https://youngminds.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/new-guide-for-parents-on-social-media-and-mental-health/. Last accessed 26th January 2020 .
Mind . (Unknown ). How we manage social media. Available: https://www.mind.org.uk/about-us/our-policy-work/how-we-manage-social-media/. Last accessed 26th January 2020.