Through the ages mental illness has invariably carried a stigma – people who had any kind of mental illness were often shunned and in severe cases put in asylums, instead of getting the help they needed. People who had mild mental problems often hid them from others (and still do) to avoid becoming social outcasts. According to the National Institute for Mental Health 25 percent of the general populace suffers from some form of mental illness at some time in their lives. While things are more out in the open, there is still some amount of stigma attached to mental illness. Cut to modern times: social media is now playing a greater role in helping those who are mentally ill.
The kind of social media that can help people fight mental illness
Any kind of social media platform that helps different people share experiences to get feedback and support can help. These include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, Instagram, Vimeo, YouTube, Tumblr, blogs and many other web-based channels including charity foundations. A study published in October 2014 in PLOS ONE showed that people with various psychological disorders like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder actually were very comfortable using social media and putting their experiences out in the open. The study showed that people with mental illness actually feel more connected via social media and receive and give support to others in a similar condition. They also learn about different medications and coping strategies.
There are many support groups and forums on the web that talk about suicide, depression (#BellLet’sTalk), substance abuse, isolation, gender problems, sexual orientation, anxiety or other mental disorders. These groups are easily accessible and usually welcome new people as they are more inclusive. A person who has any kind of mental problem does not have to leave his or her comfort zone, go out and meet mental health professionals or support groups physically unless absolutely required – the only tools that are needed are an internet connection and a willingness to communicate.
Different ways that social media helps people fight mental illness
- Social media raises awareness as many people may not even know that they are suffering from any kind of mental illness. Once they know they have a problem, they can seek a solution for it.
- Many people suffer from isolation either due to their feelings, or if they are in a minority or because they are genuinely alone whether due to shyness, introversion or lack of interested or interesting people around them. Social media helps them feel connected with normal people; self-help groups and forums help them connect with people in the same boat.
- It is not difficult to find online support groups that help deal with problems.
- There are many projects and apps that actually help people by providing specific treatment for certain disorders or promote mental well being and peace.
- Social media helps by online sharing of all kinds of information very quickly in real-time.
With greater awareness about the very real problems faced by those who suffer from mental illness, the anonymity that social media affords and a greater willingness of people to share, social media has an important role to play in dealing with mental illness.