What role does social media play towards mental health?

Social media and mental health. Pic: Getty Images

May marks the month of mental health awareness. Although for many people, mental health may only make more of an appearance in their lives over the duration of this month, for others it has been and will continue to be prominent in their lives 24/7.

In a modern day world where we spend hours a day scrolling through our Instagram feeds full of seemingly perfect influencers, it’s easy to see that social media could be fuelling these mental disorders. Furthermore the feeling of fear of missing out (FOMO) can cause loneliness, leading to a detrimental impact on mental health if this gets out of hand. The pressure to compete with seemingly perfect lives portrayed on social media can also get a little too much.

Meanwhile others struggle to find a healthy boundary with social media, meaning they never switch off from the chaos of the online world, therefore it’s no surprise that social media is somewhat responsible for the mental health struggles which many face.

Although some influencers have made an effort to reveal the realities of their lives by showing how angles and lighting can affect their appearance, many continue to portray lives which for most are unachievable, leaving many of their impressionable followers feeling as though they aren’t good enough. On the other hand, more influencers have begun to open up about the online abuse which influencers receive through direct messages, comments and the false articles written by the press which tend to circulate online.

The Royal Society for Public Health reported, “Social media may be fuelling a mental health crisis” in young people.

This is no surprise based on research which MFHA England found that 21.2% of young people aged 11-19 report being cyberbullied in the past year and the national institute of mental health found that 25% of 18-25 year olds report having some form of mental illness. This figure has risen as the use of social media has increased, suggesting that social media is responsible for the rise in poor mental health.

Despite the negativity which social media causes with regards to mental health, I do question whether the stigma would be stronger and my mental health knowledge would be weaker without social media. Celebrities like Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande have been seen sharing mental health related posts on their Instagram this month to raise awareness.

Not only that, reality TV star and doctor, Alex George, has now been given the role of ambassador for mental health, where his social media plays a massive part in promoting projects he’s working on and educating others. Furthermore, Instagram accounts such as The Depression Project and DLC Anxiety Worldwide have increased my knowledge about the metal health disorders that exist and how to spot signs and help someone with them.

Although social media gets a bad reputation for its impact on mental health, it holds a powerful role in spreading awareness and educating people. It allows us to slowly break down the stigma surrounding mental health.

So, what can we take from this? Well, social media can have a harmful impact on many of its users, particularly adolescents. However with people finding more courage to say things on social media they wouldn’t in real life. Unfortunately though, sometimes this can be negative, which would sometimes encourage the conversation of mental health impact.

Perhaps without social media, we would shy away from discussing mental health, therefore its impact on mental health isn’t all that bad.

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