Coming Out About Mental Health On Social Media

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Susanna Harris was sitting in her lab class for her graduate program on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when she obtained an e mail that informed her she had failed what she describes as “the most important exam in grad school,” the doctoral qualifying examination. She took the remainder of the day without work, went dwelling and baked cookies.

Harris continued along with her common schedule: lab, work, dwelling, repeat. Everything appeared tremendous till she realized she was having a tough time focusing because of lack of sleep. That’s when she determined to go to campus well being to ask for a prescription for a sleeping assist. The physician mentioned they may give her a prescription, however it might be for antidepressants as a substitute.

Harris was shocked how widespread despair is amongst Ph.D. college students, so she started sharing points of her personal psychological well being journey on social media by creating the Twitter account and hashtag #PhDBalance. People share the tales they could in any other case maintain personal — tales of hysteria, despair, abuse, substance use, PTSD. Others touch upon the posts and attain out to the creator. “People have found friends and compatriots through our page based on what they are going through, and I think that is beautiful,” mentioned Harris, who has additionally shared her experiences onstage at The Monti — a nonprofit group in North Carolina that invitations individuals to inform private tales.

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While struggles with psychological well being had been historically saved personal, lately a rising variety of victims are adopting the alternative tack: sharing their psychological well being battles with the world, through social media.

Celebrities and public figures like actors Dwayne Johnson and Gina Rodriguez and singer Ariana Grande have used social media as a platform to share tales about their psychological well being and encourage others. Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers started utilizing his Twitter account to share the story of his struggles after writing an article for The Players’ Tribune — a brand new media firm that gives athletes with a platform to attach instantly with followers. The article highlighted how he got here to understand that sharing improves not solely his life, however the lives of others.

Sammy Nickalls of Lebanon, Pa., is an editor and author who created the hashtag #SpeakingAboutIt in 2015. Nickalls mentioned she did it as a result of, as a University of Michigan study has discovered, Facebook and different social media could make individuals really feel worse as a result of they have a tendency to point out the happier points of customers’ lives. “When all you see are highlights from people’s lives, social media encourages comparisons, FOMO [fear of missing out], all that good stuff,” Nickalls mentioned. “That’s why I wanted to start #TalkingAboutIt — because if we’re open about the dark times, too, social media will be less likely to make users feel lonely and like their lives don’t measure up.”

People usually join with each other by utilizing hashtags like #SpeakingAboutIt and #mentalhealth which have a broad target market. Others comparable to #YouGoodMan and #YouOkSis had been created particularly for psychological well being issues within the African American group. #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike is utilized by individuals with that particular downside.

People have additionally used social media to specific their elevated anxiousness about mass shootings. Hashtag #ItsGettingTooHardTo started getting used on Twitter in response to the mass shootings that occurred in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The hashtag #IAmNotDangerous was used to fight faulty statements that psychological sickness is answerable for driving individuals to commit mass shootings.

Lauren Evans, a Philadelphia public relations skilled, is a survivor of home violence who was recognized with post-traumatic stress dysfunction, despair and anxiousness in 2013. The group she discovered on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook helped her cope. Evans retains the hashtag #DVsurvivor and phrases “Mental Health Advocate” in her Instagram bio to assist her discover different psychological well being accounts on social media. Finding others who understood her wrestle and didn’t low cost her emotions was invaluable. She mentioned social media “has been one of the most helpful things for me to have my voice feel validated, especially regarding past trauma. It’s also super cool to network with others who are on their journey, and it makes it seem more socially accepted.”

It can be widespread for organizations to make use of social media as a platform to share data, ideas and techniques. The National Alliance on Mental Health has a Facebook page that gives details about occasions and a protected area for individuals to debate their issues.

Dr. Isaiah Pickens, a scientific psychologist in Los Angeles and founding father of IOpening Enterprises, believes that, when used the flawed method, social media can have a unfavorable influence. “Social media can also exacerbate problems if it’s not the right kind of community and if it’s a community that potentially responds in ways that are toxic,” Pickens mentioned. “When people sometimes try to share their experience and their experience is received in a way that increases the type of harassment, intimidation and bullying that happens.”

He cautions that individuals ought to consider social media as a secondary software and get assist from professionals and conventional help teams. Seek out teams on social media that share your downside, he mentioned, and provides your self permission to carry again some points of your life. It’s vital to set boundaries.

For people who find themselves open about their psychological well being on social media, there’s a risk that they are going to face backlash from buddies, household or co-workers. “One time, when I made an understandable and human — in my opinion, anyway — mistake at work and had also been open about my mental health online the same day,” Nickalls mentioned, “a former employer said something along the lines of ‘Maybe you should focus more on your work and less on your mental health.’”

But general, she mentioned, “I think people in general are thinking about mental health differently than they did before, and they’re using social media to reach out for community and support.”

If you or somebody you realize has talked about considering suicide, name the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat, each accessible 24 hours a day, seven days every week.

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Tarena Lofton: @TarenaLofton

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