The way we communicate and disseminate information is rapidly changing. With the continued growth of the Internet and social media, it is important for individuals and mental health organizations to develop a better understanding of these technologies and their impact on their communication channels. Social media uses Internet service to instantly collaborate, share information, and have a conversation about ideas, causes, and organizations we care about, powered by social media tools. Social media represents a user-driven environment, where individuals with Internet access through their mobile device or computer can have a voice and the opportunity to express themselves and connect with a larger online community. The promotion and awareness of mental health through social networking sites may be an innovative approach to reduce stigma.
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What is Social Media?
Social media is defined as a variety of Internet-based platforms that allow for conversations and interactions between users. In the eBook, Social Media in Mental Health Practice, the social media phrase is used to describe online conversations between people, which became possible with what is known as ‘Web 2.0’ – the development of technologies that allows anyone to upload content themselves – such as blogs, pictures, sounds and video clips; share these widely through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on and others can then leave comments, add to the material and share them more widely.
Why is Social Media Important in Mental Health Practice?
Social media is no longer something that a few people do as a remote or separate activity. Its use now weaves into everyday life for the majority of the population. Online communities may serve as powerful venues where individuals with serious mental illness can challenge stigma through personal empowerment and the provision of hope. Studies have shown that knowing that there are others facing similar concerns, frustrations, and illness symptoms, can be highly reassuring and can create a sense of belonging to a group. In another publication, young adults with mental illness reported that one of the primary reasons for connecting with others online is to feel less alone. Popular social media allows people with serious mental illness to feel connected while gaining a sense of relief from knowing that others share similar experiences and challenges.
Positive Impacts of Social Media on our Mental Health:
- Find and build a support network
- Stay in touch socially with friends, family, peers, and colleagues
- Staying informed and up to date about current events
- Document recovery and share experiences
- Read others stories/experiences – you are not alone!
- Fight stigma
- Advocate for causes you believe in
Social Networks “Connections”
A special article published by Cambridge University Press illustrates that “people with serious mental illness are increasingly turning to popular social media, including Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, to share their illness experiences or seek advice from others with similar health conditions”. It also stated that “people with serious mental illness report benefits from interacting with peers online from greater social connectedness, feelings of group belonging and by sharing personal stories and strategies for coping with day-to-day challenges of living with a mental illness. Another research suggests that people with serious mental illness are interested and willing to form connections with others through social media. A survey of young adults found that those with mental illness were more likely to express personal views through blogging, build friendships on social media and connect with people online who have shared interests compared with those without mental illness”.
Mental health blogs aim to encourage people to think more positively and proactively about their mental health and help them to maintain their wellbeing. It’s about giving people a voice to tell their own stories and learn about the story of others. Furthermore, the book Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care focuses on the practical utility of using blogs for the dissemination of information rather than other social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook. The author states that blog use has some benefits that other forms of social media do not, like providing a social support forum where individuals can speak freely about their treatment and experiences. The publication reveals that blogging assists mental health organizations in building loyal relationships with the community they serve; humanizes the organization as it allows for followers to personally connect with the writer of the particular blog, provides the organization with a voice giving staff the opportunity to share and connect with the individuals they serve. In mental health, the social media form of communication has to be engaging. Engagement makes individuals feel empowered and important.
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