Mental health professionals, Arouba Kabir, Dr. Era, Dr. Sarthak Dave, and Dr. Rashi Agarwal share their insights on mental health awareness in times of social media!

One of the raging topics of debate on social media is mental health. While mental health-related issues are still widely stigmatized, social media is modifying how we look at them. It gives space to those suffering from mental health issues to share their concerns and experiences with preferred communities. It provides a platform for mental health professionals giving them tools to educate people about how to deal with such issues. It has connected those suffering with those who can heal, thus, normalizing mental health.

Mental health therapist/ counselor, Arouba Kabir believes that our health and well-being are strongly influenced by our mental health. However, it still carries a stigma. “Thus, many people try to avoid related conversations. However, mental health conversations have gotten popular owing to social media. Numerous tools, tales, and messages are being shared to demonstrate support.” According to Psychiatrist Dr. Era Dutta, Founder of Mental Wellness such conversations bring awareness, acceptability, and a sense of belonging. Social media also provides useful tips, professional’s contacts, groups, societies, and a safe space.

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However, the picture is not entirely rosy since social media can also impact us negatively. While social media is helping spread awareness about mental health, it can also have damaging effects. “Social media has become a place for talking freely about mental health. While this is a welcome change, some people making their opinions sound like facts is a downside,” she believes. Psychiatrist and content creator, Dr. Sarthak Dave says, “Before social media, fewer people knew of terms like Depression, OCD, schizophrenia, and others. People are now coming out and talking about such issues virtually, bringing positive change. However, a slight risk of overdiagnosis stays.”

Social media can also damage your psyche in various unrecognizable ways. As per Psychiatrist Dr. Rashi Agarwal, being a passive observer of events and perceiving that others have it better is damaging. Creators too face a lot of shame in multiple instances. Dr. Era states toxic positivity as a factor – the umbrella idea of all is well, everything happens for a reason, good vibes only, and expecting to be happy always. Everyone is becoming a knowledge-dispensing machine causing information overload. Also, virtual anonymity allows people to be mean to others. Not to forget, excessive use, addiction, and dependence are real concerns. Hence, Arouba advises demarcating your social media time. “Avoid using it till 30 minutes after waking up and 30 minutes before sleeping. It’ll energize you for the day and help you sleep better at night.”

We have also seen unqualified people giving therapy and advice on public platforms. Is their advice valid? Dr. Rashi comments, “It’s unethical, unprofessional, and illegal to claim to be an expert and extort money from people if you are not qualified. It causes monetary loss and puts people in crisis making things worse.” Dr Era believes that it’s like everyone thinks they are seasoned chefs because they can make Dalgona coffee. “In fact, anyone can use the titles psychologist, counselor, or health coach as there are no guidelines or bodies that titrate the quality. Even if one has had a lived experience of a particular disease, it doesn’t mean they have mastery in overcoming it. Therapy is not mere chit-chat or venting. Anyone can give tips to control diabetes but only doctors can prescribe medicine. The same principle ensues in mental health.”

If you look up to mental health creators, then you might want to tread carefully. In Dr. Arouba’s opinion, “Mental health issues can’t be cured by watching Reels. Some things require medical intervention, therapy, and so on. You need a qualified professional to help you and make your recovery easier.” Along similar lines, Dr. Sarthak advises, “Motivational videos or inspirational quotes might resonate with you, but they won’t help you get better. Use it as support, not as primary treatment or worse, escape.” Dr. Rashi suggests checking the credentials of such creators. Dr. Era further advises checking the credentials not only on one social media account but across platforms. “Look for degrees and experience, not just follower count.”

While social media is tricky terrain for those seeking help, it can be beneficial if you know how to use it right. Needless to say, nothing can replace taking professional help. We hope this article helps you make apt choices for your health!