Mental illnesses are common across the world. According to the World Health Organization, depression affects 350 million people; bipolar affective disorder affects about 60 million people; schizophrenia affects about 21 million people worldwide. However, between 35 and 50 percent of people with mental illness receive no treatment. It is argued that mental illness stigma is the major reason to keep people from seeking help and learning more about these conditions. Stigma causes a spiral of alienation and discrimination, leading to social isolation that diminishes the chances for recovery. Given the prevalence of mental illness, there is a strong need for mental health promotion and anti-stigma campaigns. As stated by a BioMed Central article, “mental health promotion involves actions that support people to adopt and maintain healthy ways of life and create living conditions and environments that allow or foster health”. Mental health promotion is important for three key reasons. First, it helps the individual to promptly recognize poor well-being in the self and/or others. Second, it helps the individual to address identified issues in an appropriate and a timely manner. Third, it has the potential to reduce the stigma often associated with mental health issues.
Practitioners in the mental health field are slowly waking up to the potential of social media as a tool to facilitate and promote the social inclusion of individuals living with mental health problems. Despite the clear potential of digital technology to connect people and mental health services in new ways, evidence suggests that this potential is not being fully accomplished. The tools and strategies for communicating with others have changed significantly with the emergence of social media. As stated in an article published in ScienceDirect, social media has become a major factor in influencing various aspects of consumer behavior including awareness, information acquisition, opinions, attitudes, communication, and evaluation. This means that 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. Many people are already using social media in their recovery and to live well from learning critical life and job skills to self-management of their health and making new connections. Many more may find social media useful but would benefit from some help to get started. This level of activity brings opportunities for mental health promotion and awareness.
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Social Media Campaigns to Change Mental Health Behavior
The World Health Organization promotes the internet as a powerful tool for communicating and accessing health information for professionals, organizations, and the population. Social media has considerable potential to reach a great audience and cover a wide range of topics. Therefore, it has application for providing mental health information and educational services quickly to the target audience. Social media campaigns designed to promote mental health bear results with respect to informing the public, challenging current beliefs and attitudes, and potentially obtaining the development of mental illness. Mental health promotion campaigns are favorable because they are capable of communicating information, increasing awareness, and affecting a large number of people. Social media interventions can produce positive health changes on a grand scale by enforcing positive health behaviors among individuals. Social media and the web offer fresh opportunities, as they are interactive, not solely to inform. In this aspect, social media campaign interventions become shaped in the interaction between the general population, mental health, and media professionals. These individuals are then not really the aim of the productions but co-producers. In addition, social media has a proven effect on mental health promotion, de-stigmatization, and prevention as established by an array of research methods. Moreover, other studies have measured the change in attitude, in clarifying misconceptions and raising empathy with an understanding of mental illness.
Finally, social media campaigns can facilitate reflection and education focused on themes of mental health and mental resilience. It can open the space and maintain an interactive dialogue for the user to de-stigmatize mental health problems, to terminate the taboo on mental health issues, to give words to mental health concerns, to identify problems as well as multiple ways to deal with them. In this manner, social media campaigns move away from only providing information to the community to creating an interactive platform for continuous learning about mental health issues.
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