• Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

How the Internet is Changing How We Talk About Mental Health

Bysonal gupta

Jun 30, 2024

For many, though, mental health means much more than something to be cured; it is a changing, fluid, state of flourishing – highly subjective, shaped through experiences, beliefs and perceptions, and also through social, political and economic structures.

With millions of people suffering from these mental health disorders, increasing awareness and reducing stigma can help them lead healthy lives. But how is the Internet changing the way we talk about mental health?

Social Media

Social media can be a crucial means through which people can communicate with others, openly and frankly discussing and give as well as provide support and information to persons who may be enquiring about mental well-being. as a result of this it can contribute to a greater sense of connection, reduce isolation and in turn increase self esteem. Furthermore, excessive use of social media can lead to an increased amount of stress and the pressure felt in keeping up with others, can also lead to feelings of depression and sadness. In order for individuals to use social media in a manner which would provide you benefits rather than drawbacks, they will need to use it mindfully.

Social platforms might enable people to seek out information and support from others with lived experience of mental illness, look for information on symptoms, treatments or ways of coping, or socialise with people who will not react with hostility or fear to the disclosure of mental illness. Moreover, separate research shows how social media can reduce isolation for people with severe psychiatric conditions by helping them learn that they are not as different as they initially believed.

Given the growing number of users, future work should continue to investigate approaches to harnessing this technology for mental health promotion as well as to foster access to evidence-based programmes and services. Indeed in low and middle income countries, where the majority of the world’s population resides and where a disproportionate number of mental disorders occur, but the access to conventional health care remains limited, social media may now become an important avenue.

Online Searches

Measuring public reactions to epidemic outbreaks using pilots and log-files from new data flows (such as search engine data), focusing on emotion-seeking searches and calibrating these effects and emotions using validated self-report tools such as those for anxiety, fear, sadness, depression, loneliness and suicidality.

This ‘New Frankness’ is in part due to social media. The YouTube vlogger Rebecca Brown (known online as Beckie0) has 246,898 subscribers and regularly vlogs about her depression and trichotillomania, a mental condition that causes people to pull out their hair.

But the searches themselves could reflect a kind of do-it-yourself diagnosis, in which people found results that helped them make sense not of objective mental health data but of their own symptoms. The searches rise and fall in reaction to news events and in response to social anxieties (aspects of which are reflected in Google Trends itself) or uncertainties of what to do next. In 2021, searches for ‘how to cure burnout’ jumped, as did searches for ‘how to help Palestine, how to help Afghanistan’.

Online Treatments

Since psychiatry is on the cusp of a transformation where inclusivity becomes more important, the chances of consumers seeking online treatments are increasing exponentially. However, this also incorporates diverse dangers, a foremost being the tendency of netizens to self-diagnose their mental health disorder – which can be either fatal or life-threatening as pointed out by Psychology Today.

For example, viewing social media posts that describe the symptoms of specific disorders can increase viewers’ propensity to pathologise their own experiences (even those that have nothing to do with the described disorder) or even essentially hallucinate symptoms they don’t actually have. This has the potential to be particularly harmful in the case of YouTube vloggers, who are often viewed as authorities on a variety of topics.

A decade of public health campaigns revealing the very high prevalence of mental ill health and normalising the idea of talking about it has nonetheless been muted by a roar of stigma that remains the greatest barrier to care for people who need it. It can be hard to quantify just how many people don’t get the treatment that they need, with estimates from 25 to 50 per cent. What we all do know is that this is an enormous waste of lives and resources. At the same time that more and more people are experiencing distress, fewer and fewer mental health services can cater to their needs because resources are stretched to breaking point. If we could enable more people to gain access to remote therapy, it’s a resource we simply can’t afford to lose.

Stigma

Positive trends notwithstanding, stigma remains. Stigma is the result of ignorance and misinformation that creates negative beliefs or prejudice when put into action. Some examples include the casual comment that all people with a mental illness are dangerous or violent, to laws that restrict the right to bear arms for people with mental illness, or restrict hospitalisation for in-patients with a mental illness, or restrict the rights of in-patients with a mental illness, to health insurance coverage policies that deny benefits or coverage to people with a mental illness.

Culture and media, of course, shape perceptions of mental health conditions. But we also have to consider the roles of individual experience and personal belief, since a person’s own self-stigma will make them less likely to seek help for their condition.

The most effective way to combat stigma is by discussing your own favourable experiences with mental health issues and sharing accurate information in conversations with others. You should also make an effort to use ‘person-centred’ language, for example, ‘a person living with’ rather than ‘a patient’ or ‘an addict’. And most important, you can compare access to mental health services with other medical conditions such as diabetes or cancer.

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