We use the Internet to learn about, essentially, everything. All it takes is opening up the browser app of your choice or opening up a new tab, googling whatever you’re interested in, and immediately getting hundreds upon thousands upon millions of results. This can be, without a doubt, overwhelming. There’s so much information to parse through and consider, and sometimes you may find yourself going to social media sites you’re comfortable and familiar with and do the research there.
Using the Internet to learn more about mental health is no exception to this research process, especially for youths. In a generation that is almost entirely online and at an age where symptoms of depression and anxiety are likely to start to surface, it’s no surprise that 90% of teens and young adults who show more intense symptoms of depression have turned to the Internet to learn more about mental health. The tools they turn to can range from using apps focused on well-being, using chat features to connect with professionals, and listening to podcasts.
However, youths are vocal about which tools are more useful than others. Most notably, they’re not as likely to call suicide hotlines, and the percentages of those who use the Internet to connect to a health professional are lower than alternative methods. In fact, they are likely to be on the social media platforms they’re already using for everything else when they’re online. While youths use social media primarily to vent and have someone they can trust and have access to when experiencing mental health issues, social media might be able to help them learn about mental health by having that same trustworthy person give them sites and professionals they’ve spoken to, or they may be able to find professionally run accounts who use social media as a means of educating followers about mental health.
This isn’t to suggest that using social media is the best and only option to do research on mental health and that it will provide the most accurate information. It’s important to get as much professional knowledge as possible if you can (our links category has some options you can consider looking further into), and those with more severe depressive symptoms are more likely to feel left out when online, but what social media can help with is not just reading and hearing about others’ experiences, but being able to connect to and talk with them.
Has social media helped you in learning about mental health? Have you talked to anyone online about your mental health or their mental health? What resources online have you used to learn about mental health?