Trish, Do u think mental health and therapy content on social media is useful?
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to another week of Ask Trish!
Thank you so much to this week’s question-er for their fantastic question. It really is such a great question because (as I’m sure you all are well aware!) therapy and mental health-related content is all over social media today. From infographics, to videos, to statistics, this information is shared by all sorts of social media users, from high-profile content creators to even friends and family. It’s definitely worth thinking, then, about this so-called “mental health and therapy content,” and its promise and potential pitfalls. In this post, that’s exactly what I’m going to do (albeit, pretty briefly). I’ll start by defining “mental health and therapy content,” and then discuss what it can do well. I’ll also get into its potential challenges, and in that vein, offer y’all some brief tips on how to navigate this content on social media.
Sound like a plan? Okay, then! Let’s get into it:
So, what is “mental health and therapy content”? This content – which, again, is all over social media today – often explores themes around mental health and/or therapy. Creators, may, for instance, chat about mental health challenges, offering viewers tips on how to identify these issues (e.g., “If you have these 5 symptoms, you might have…”) and strategies for managing or tackling them. Creators may also document their experiences going to therapy or attempt to therapize/offer counsel to their followers (e.g., “When you’re feeling stressed, do XYZ…”). Still other creators may create artwork or infographics to raise awareness about the mental health challenges they (or others they know) are experiencing; others may write or share about their lived experience living with mental health issues. All that’s to say – this content is as diverse as it is common today.
The promise of this “mental health and therapy content” is its potential to 1) offer crucial support to social media users and to 2) potentially make otherwise inaccessible information widely available to audiences that need that information. After all, by definition, this content reminds users that there are folks just like them working through mental health challenges; such content can, then, destigmatize mental illness and therapy and show users that they are not alone. (And that’s a big deal, considering the fact that, according to the Mental Health Foundation, 20% of US adolescents may experience a mental health problem each year.) This content can also make important information about mental health and therapy available to users; for instance, the aforementioned infographics can (when referencing reliable information) circulate key statistics, and videos created by licensed professionals can convey simple strategies or tips for better mental health to users. This is information many users likely otherwise wouldn’t have access to, for a number of reasons, whether cost-based barriers or other barriers.
Okay, so “mental health and therapy content” is sounding pretty good, right? What are the potential pitfalls, if any? First and foremost, it’s important to remember that many creators on social media are not licensed professionals or experts; they may just be folks dealing with a mental health issue of their own. While that gives them some information they can share, it certainly doesn’t put them in the position to accurately diagnose and treat all of their followers. Lots of creators don’t intend to share inaccurate information, but because of this lack of expertise, they may inadvertently do so. That lack of expertise may also lead them to misuse medical language or misportray certain communities. And even when creators do have the expertise, it’s also worth remembering that social media doesn’t exactly lend itself to detailed, contextualized information – what an expert might be saying may be right in some contexts, but not in all. In environments in which short captions and brief videos thrive, creators may not share the whole picture…but users, of course, won’t know that. And that can be dangerous. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it’s just as important to get it right.
So what, then, to do? How can you more safely navigate “mental health and therapy content” on social media? Below, I offer three brief tips:
Scrutinize the source of the content. If it’s an infographic featuring mental health-related statistics, where are those statistics from? If it’s a video featuring a creator speaking about a mental health issue, who is that creator? Are they a licensed therapist with their own TikTok account? Or are they a friend (who, while super awesome, is not an expert)?
Remember that the information is a snapshot, not the definite “truth.” Again, the nature of social media naturally limits what can and cannot be shared. Even if the source of the content is legit, remember that the information they’re sharing is likely one piece of a much larger puzzle.
(And to that end,) verify and back up information, ideally by consulting a doctor or therapist. Get a look at that larger puzzle by actively and intentionally caring for your mental wellbeing off of social media. Social media should only ever be a starting point – not the endpoint – for your mental health and therapy journey.
I hope you found this post helpful, and that these tips help you harness the good of social media therapy while avoiding the potential pitfalls. Remember, as is the case with most information on social media, exercise caution. Please let me know if these tips help you – or if you face other challenges – by dropping a note in the comments section of this week’s TikTok video.
Oh, and one last thing – if this post got you thinking, and you now have a question or concern about the Internet (whether it’s mental health content-related or not!), please share it here. Your question just might be featured in an upcoming TikTok/blog post. I genuinely look forward to hearing from you all and offering you what I hope is some valuable advice, so ask away! Whether it’s just 1 question or 5 questions on your mind, I’m here to help. Thank you in advance for being vulnerable and sharing your experiences with me.