Does social media help you to talk about your mental health?

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Poll: Who do you think it's more helpful to talk about mental health with?
Friends and family (422)
46.53%
People on anonymised forums (485)
53.47%
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MMU Guest Lecturer
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#1
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As someone who has always had mental health issues, I felt that there was not enough support from GPs or other health professionals, for people who are not an immediate danger to themselves or the community. So, I decided to see how other people manage, and this was through communities on the internet.

My research found that more people than ever are going online to talk about mental health and that anonymous forums can help people to ‘fill in’ missing information that the GPs don’t understand. This could be things such as:

  • what can happen during a manic phase;
  • how anxiety feels;
  • or finding that other people also have times where they physically can’t get out of bed for days.

This is the kind of information that makes you realise that your symptoms are normal and that you are not the only person struggling in this way.

I also found that some people may then move on from anonymous forums once they have a better understanding of their mental health. They are able to confidently speak to friends about how they feel, or write about it in a coherent post for their social media page. But, my article states that there can be unforeseen consequences to disclosure about mental ill health on social media.

I would, therefore, like to pose a question for you to discuss.

Do you think that it is more helpful to talk about your mental health with strangers on anonymised forums, or do you think that it is better to talk to friends and family about your mental health via social media?



I’m Kim Heyes, I’m a Research Associate at Manchester Metropolitan University, and an expert in mental health and community psychology. My current research is about how online forums can help people with mental health. I’m also working on projects ranging from learning disabilities in UK prisons, to gender inequalities in Tanzania.
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CoolCavy
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#2
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I prefer talking (about stuff in general) over online because im so introverted im practically inside out. People can't hear me half the time and i get fed up of people going 'WHAT??!' at me constantly so i prefer online messaging because everyone can hear you first time.
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04MR17
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TSR in particular has certainly helped me talking about MH, and helped me rethink what my own positions are about the societal questions on MH.

Less so other social media (because I don't use them much). But I do think there is a harm to be dependent on technology too much for support and unless the relationships you develop with other people online are transferred into a real life setting (as has happened with me) it is possibly damaging to be fixated on somebody whom you don't even know the name of.
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MMU Guest Lecturer
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(Original post by CoolCavy)
I prefer talking (about stuff in general) over online because im so introverted im practically inside out. People can't hear me half the time and i get fed up of people going 'WHAT??!' at me constantly so i prefer online messaging because everyone can hear you first time.
That's interesting CoolCavy. Does your confidence offline increase once you've discussed a topic online?
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CoolCavy
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(Original post by MMU Guest Lecturer)
That's interesting CoolCavy. Does your confidence offline increase once you've discussed a topic online?
Hm i think it depends :beard: if i had talked to that person about that thing then talked to them about it face to face think would feel better about it having talked about it online first but if it was just the topic in general i dont think so no
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(Original post by 04MR17)
TSR in particular has certainly helped me talking about MH, and helped me rethink what my own positions are about the societal questions on MH.

Less so other social media (because I don't use them much). But I do think there is a harm to be dependent on technology too much for support and unless the relationships you develop with other people online are transferred into a real life setting (as has happened with me) it is possibly damaging to be fixated on somebody whom you don't even know the name of.
I think that the MH forums on TSR are really good.
Do you think it is always safe to transfer relationships from online to offline? What was it that made you decide to move your relationship from the online forum?
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FloralHybrid
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#7
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I’d imagine people enjoy the anonymity of online forums. They don’t feel open or vulnerable because they can disassociate themselves with what they’re putting online, while at the same time feel as though they’re being honest and being listened to.
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04MR17
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(Original post by MMU Guest Lecturer)
I think that the MH forums on TSR are really good.
Do you think it is always safe to transfer relationships from online to offline? What was it that made you decide to move your relationship from the online forum?
Not always safe of course.
TSR's actually has some guidance on this issue:
https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/hel...e-student-room

The first time was actually when I was leaving TSR to do lent (I was quite attached to it at the time, as was a friend of mine). We both quit the site for lent and didn't post. So that we could stay in touch with each other for that time, we swapped phone numbers. That was 18 months ago. Since then we've met up in person at least 10 times and spent most of our Summer together.:innocent:
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(Original post by FloralHybrid)
I’d imagine people enjoy the anonymity of online forums. They don’t feel open or vulnerable because they can disassociate themselves with what they’re putting online, while at the same time feel as though they’re being honest and being listened to.
I agree, I think it can be really helpful for some people to be able to open up without feeling restricted. There is quite a lot of research now (including my own!) that backs this up, and show that it can be really beneficial for people to talk about their MH in this way.
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3121
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#10
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I think its good but the issue is mental health is usually a reflection of lifestyle, so when we talk about it to peers and family they can help us readjust our lifestyles or we feel motivated as if we've just turned a page after talking to them about it. when we talk online what people are doing is trying to find sanity in their insanity, and that's dangerous because we become comfortable with our poor lifestyle and mental health without doing anything but talking about it and not making the crucial changes
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Kvothe the Arcane
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#11
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Somewhat. Certainly not on my timeline. People have been historically unkind to me and to be fair, I've learnt it probably isn't the best to be too transparent about such things.

But I've found groups to be useful. I've been able to honestly talk about my gender insecurities, anxiety issues and suicidal tendencies amongst other things. I do get really happy for friends who get love and support from their audiences however!
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CoolCavy
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(Original post by 3121)
I think its good but the issue is mental health is usually a reflection of lifestyle, so when we talk about it to peers and family they can help us readjust our lifestyles or we feel motivated as if we've just turned a page after talking to them about it. when we talk online what people are doing is trying to find sanity in their insanity, and that's dangerous because we become comfortable with our poor lifestyle and mental health without doing anything but talking about it and not making the crucial changes
How is a reflection of lifestyle, you're putting the blame for the illness on the victim.
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3121
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(Original post by CoolCavy)
How is a reflection of lifestyle, you're putting the blame for the illness on the victim.
A lot of what people class as mental illness today isn't what it used to be in the tradational sense, you're arguing from the tradational point of view and that makes up very little of cases. in plently of cases its an issue of lifestyle choices. Are you telling me things like stress (from work, education, etc.), social interaction and social media don't influence mental health? Not to mention how the media has glamourised mental health issues so much people self diagnose themselves online most the time and are inaccurate, but since they believe they end up getting into a mindset of it.

It's things like using the term victim which isn't good as well, I think mental unfitness is huge confused with mental illness. The epidemic of mental illness we see today, a majority of them could easily be deemed as mental unfitness. People have the power in themselves to overcome mental health struggles in plently of cases, the more we tell them to seek out drugs and other people instead of themselves, the less likely they are to use this. Not saying they shouldn't seek these things out as in most cases people can only empower themselves through the help of others but it shouldn't be about just talking about your issues, everyone says it helps but its a temporary fix. It's like drying up the water from a pipe leak... it works, until the water floods again.
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Kindred
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#14
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I think it's one of those things that has multiple parts to it. There are things that make online better and things that make in person better. In cases like that I tend to think a mix is good so you can get the best of both worlds.

Social media, forums etc (especially when anonymous) give more freedom to go deep without risking being treated differently, judged, having rumours spread and other nasty consequences.
It also gives more chance of connecting with people who share more similar experiences or issues. You might not know anybody in person who has suffered from abuse or a traumatic event etc, but somebody online may have and it can be very beneficial to know you aren't alone and to share thoughts with people who can get them that little bit better than others might. Sometimes sympathy is no match for genuine understanding.
And it can be more accessible to some people who perhaps have limitations in the real world be that anxieties or mental limitations, physical limitations, just not really having anybody to talk to or whatever else.
The online world is available 24/7 too. If you are having a sleepless night with horrible thoughts filling your head you may not be able to call on a friend, but the Internet will be there and there even a decent chance somebody is able to talk too (or you can at least get your thoughts out and "talk to somebody" without your friend waking up to 17 texts and worrying about you the next day).

With in person communication you have the advantage of being able to see somebody listening to you, being able to get physical comforts like a hug, potentially having somebody physically get you out of your dark space for a little while (sunlight, fresh air and a change of scenery are good for mental health on at least some level). Talking to people who are an actual part of your life also means they can potentially make steps to support you like coming to check on you, going for walks with you, collecting prescriptions or food, going with you to doctors appointments etc.

For me personally online support was a big part of my journey. I was able to bounce my thoughts there and get advice when I wasn't sure about myself yet to bring things into the "real world" and when some of my real world friends weren't as supportive as I perhaps needed (not everybody is able to offer that kind of support and that's fine). It's the words of strangers online that led to me making my first doctors appointment and helped me to work through some of my thoughts and feelings enough to convey them to my doctors.
From there the majority of my recovery came from real world support (a good friend, therapy, medication and life changes), but it's the online world that paved the way for all of that.

Both online and real world interactions have their part to play in a persons mental health journey and in some respects those roles are quite different. I don't really think that one is better or worse- it depends on what that person needs and is gaining from each.

And of course both do also have potential negatives too.
People on the Internet can sometimes be more cruel because they are distanced from the situation, they can be unable to react to concerns as they might be able to in real life, it can lead to warped thought processes and ideas, people can sometimes sensationalise or make light of mental health and other issues online etc etc. A lot of those potential issues are ones that you could also face in the real world, but that are often more prevalent online due to a larger community (so you're just more likely to come across an ass hat) and the distance it gives (less consequences and/ or empathy and guilt).
Things are also in a lot of ways less private online. For the most part anybody can see what you post online and sometimes you may not be as anonymous as you imagine. That can mean you say things you believe are private which end up anything but. And unfortunately the Internet tends not to be the best at forgiving or forgetting.

On the flip side though people in real life can also be cruel and in real life you can't just switch to a new profile. There may also be specific people in the real world who you want to avoid knowing certain things for various reasons.

Really there is no black and white with this. Both can be good and bad. A lot of it depends on the individual and their situation but also just on luck (especially online).
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CoolCavy
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(Original post by 3121)
A lot of what people class as mental illness today isn't what it used to be in the tradational sense, you're arguing from the tradational point of view and that makes up very little of cases. in plently of cases its an issue of lifestyle choices. Are you telling me things like stress (from work, education, etc.), social interaction and social media don't influence mental health? Not to mention how the media has glamourised mental health issues so much people self diagnose themselves online most the time and are inaccurate, but since they believe they end up getting into a mindset of it.

It's things like using the term victim which isn't good as well, I think mental unfitness is huge confused with mental illness. The epidemic of mental illness we see today, a majority of them could easily be deemed as mental unfitness. People have the power in themselves to overcome mental health struggles in plently of cases, the more we tell them to seek out drugs and other people instead of themselves, the less likely they are to use this. Not saying they shouldn't seek these things out as in most cases people can only empower themselves through the help of others but it shouldn't be about just talking about your issues, everyone says it helps but its a temporary fix. It's like drying up the water from a pipe leak... it works, until the water floods again.
ok

but im not talking about a little bit of stress or sadness im talking about serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar, ptsd etc. Its ridiculous to blame that on life style or conflate those with minor mental distress.
Interesting how no-one has a problem with saying cancer victim but when you use it for MH everyone's on about self victimisation and snowflakes
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username3890778
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#16
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Abzolutely and there’s no way for an online person to cut you off on here. You can be heard and not ignored. Whereas in real life you are ignored because you’re shy
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CoolCavy
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(Original post by Rainfall)
Whreas in real life you are ignored because you’re shy
Preach :yes:
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MMU Guest Lecturer
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(Original post by 3121)
I think its good but the issue is mental health is usually a reflection of lifestyle, so when we talk about it to peers and family they can help us readjust our lifestyles or we feel motivated as if we've just turned a page after talking to them about it. when we talk online what people are doing is trying to find sanity in their insanity, and that's dangerous because we become comfortable with our poor lifestyle and mental health without doing anything but talking about it and not making the crucial changes
Good point. Maybe we need to ensure that suggestions of how to adjust our lifestyles are accessible from MH forums.
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3121
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(Original post by CoolCavy)
ok

but im not talking about a little bit of stress or sadness im talking about serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar, ptsd etc. Its ridiculous to blame that on life style or conflate those with minor mental distress.
Interesting how no-one has a problem with saying cancer victim but when you use it for MH everyone's on about self victimisation and snowflakes
Those are a minority of people though and weren’t the people I’m referring to, those would the traditional cases. When you look on social media or the mental health forum how many of those cases are actually there? They’re marginalised by the people who just don’t take care of their mental health.

Saying it’s like cancer is wrong for the people you described it’s fair enough but for most it’s more like obesity. They don’t feed their mind nutritious stuff, how many of them still drink alcohol? How many will exercise and meditate? How many will try to lead a positive lifestyle through diet changes, social interaction, realistic ambitions and cutting out drugs & alcohol?
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CoolCavy
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(Original post by 3121)
the mental health forum how many of those cases are actually there?.
Many, actually.
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