Or at least, social media can be good for mental health.
That said, research for this post happened at the end of Suicide Prevention Week, an event that didn’t beep much on our professional radar…at least until an explosion of negative social media talk got us thinking.
It was then that the good of #SuicidePrevention on social media became entirely relevant. Social media has too much personal and professional potential to go un-defended.
This is what the study said:
A study by Glasgow University showed a positive correlation between social media use late at night and poor mental health in teenagers.
The negative impact seems to come from a lack of sleep, with those actively responding to notifications late at night suffering the worst effects. Low self esteem, anxiety and depression were also linked to heavy late night social media use in the study.
But then lack of sleep is also a symptom of many mental health problems.
It’s a bit of a chicken egg scenario, but the complexities of the issue are being ignored because a techphobic witch-hunt makes for much more exciting headlines.
This is how the story was covered:
A headline is from Sky News.
It’s obviously of vital importance to get to grips with how constantly evolving communication can affect our health, and more importantly the health of children. Glasgow University’s research is a great step towards that understanding.
On the other hand, we’ve compiled a whole collection of ways that social media can actually improve mental health.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, an iceberg that barely scratches the surface and summarises what it does scratch.
Social media and associated platforms provide a huge boost of awareness (and therefore understanding and empathy) for often invisible problems like mental health. This can help improve employability and safety for those with mental illnesses.
- Mind and Movember shared stories and resources for Suicide Prevention Week, inspiring individuals to do the same.
- Project Semicolon is a social media based project based on suicide prevention. The punctuation’s function as a pause in a sentence, not an end, is symbolic of the the project’s mission to spread awareness and keep people with mental illness alive.
- Mental health even receives its own section on super-social content site BuzzFeed.
There are countless other examples, but the point is that celebrities, charities and individuals can come together in support of mental health on social media far more effectively than they can in person.
Snippets from #PNDChat
In research for this piece we came across countless grassroots networks set up by volunteers and people with mental health problems to support one another. The 24/7 nature of the web means people can reach out at any time and find support.
- Tumblr is particularly strong on this front, most of the links in this Google search will confirm that for you.
- One of many (many many) examples is PND and Me, a group that runs #PNDhour, #PNDchat and #PNDfamily on Twitter and Facebook to support people through post-natal depression on social media.
- Mental health charity Mind has its own online community, as do loads of other organisations. It’s easier to talk from behind a screen, and online there’s always somebody to talk to.
It might surprise you to learn that the internet is an amazing font of knowledge. An information superhighway, you might say.And some of that information is an invaluable aid to mental health.
- The NHS has a list of recommended apps for mental health that cover everything from meditation to dealing with work stress.
- There are dedicated resources for all circumstances. E.g. Victims of domestic abuse or sexual violence need only follow the right accounts on Tumblr or Twitter, or join a closed support group on Facebook, to know that help is only a click away at all times.
- Blogs like Hyperbole and a Half offer accounts of living with mental illness that can help those struggling with the illness articulate their struggles by simply copy/pasting a link.
- Social media provides a way for resources to be shared quickly and easily. Like this super popular Buzzfeed tweet.