Information of all kinds is so much more accessible these days than it has been in the past. And, on the bright side, there has been a significant rise in information and awareness around mental health issues. After decades of shame and stigma surrounding mental health, we welcome this. The pendulum is swinging. But there are some pros and cons to the topic of mental health coming to the forefront.
Let’s talk through this.
It saves time in therapy
Before information on mental health was readily available, part of the work in therapy was spent providing psycho-education and reframing anxiety, depression, and life stressors.
Essentially getting everyone (parents, teachers, siblings) in a system on the same page to support our clients was an important part of our sessions and treatment overall. This is still important but the time we need to spend on it has decreased because this kind of awareness is showing up regularly in many places; places like the media, in the workplace and in normal everyday conversations. If we are faced with any resistance from parents or others in the clients’ life, there are multiple reliable and relatable resources available we can share.
Now there is a more commonplace language and understanding around trauma, anxiety, depression, self care etc. In years past these things were “hush-hush” or somewhat taboo to discuss, but there has been a movement to normalize them and talk about them without shame.
This makes the therapy experience less alienating and helps people embrace the process sooner.
We can take the work deeper
Once they begin therapy, clients are much more ready to talk about trauma or symptoms because there is so much less stigma around it. There is also a chance that they have already done some research on their own or have spoken with others who have experienced some of the same things they have.
If clients have already been educating themselves by watching videos and reading about mental health issues, then there is a curiosity already present about the internal world and how everything is working. This allows clients to be more receptive to the work and ready to build their self awareness and skill sets. They have already taken some steps down the path to wellness before even starting therapy.
Clients can bring what they see on social media into sessions and any realizations or questions they have as a result of what they have seen to be clarified by the therapist. The therapist can build on and individualize the application of that information so there is a synergy of work going on inside and outside of the session.
The client is essentially taking information gleaned from social media or any other online source, and filtering it through the therapist who has experience and knowledge to determine what parts are relevant to their individual situation.
This allows the sessions to go deeper and for the client to feel more invested because they are contributing what they have learned on their own.
Since literally anyone can post anything on social media, there are going to be better sources of information than others. Unfortunately, some people want to position themselves as experts and end up sharing misinformation.
There are trends on social media that target mental and emotional health topics, like boundaries or toxic relationships, that are not fully true or helpful. There just isn’t an effective way for things like this to be policed or stopped, so it happens.
Sometimes this information can also turn into a crutch or a weapon.
For example, someone may share on social media that it’s important for your mental health to set boundaries and cut people off who have wronged you in the past. While it is important to set boundaries with people, it could be damaging to your mental well being to push people away every time they make a mistake instead of working through the problem with them.
It may be a relationship that can be salvaged and the process of working through it empowering and healing for all involved. But following that one piece of advice found on social media could be a crutch you are using to avoid actually doing the work and moving forward.
This is why it’s important to not take everything you see on social media at face value, and this is with everything, obviously, not just mental health information. There are big topics that someone is trying to capture in a meme and it’s just more nuanced than that.
A therapist can help you decipher what is good information and what is information that may have more of a negative impact than a positive one.
Misuse of Information
As with anything, we hear and see what we want to hear and see. If we approach things in a positive way we see the positive in it; if we have a negative approach then we will only see what is wrong. We can look at the same post online and see something totally different than what the next person sees because we have different perspectives, different backgrounds and a different attitude that determines how we interpret things.
So we often misuse information we gather online because we may be seeing what we want to see, instead of the true intent behind it. We can get really good at spinning things to our advantage and making it fit our own agenda or work to achieve what we want it to achieve.
What happens on the internet is no different. In fact, the algorithm literally works to show you things you “like”. Once you give it feedback by liking or commenting on a post, it is keeping a tally of that type of content to show you more of it. Eventually you really won’t see a whole lot of the things you don’t like so you start to assume what you do like is the ONLY way or the ONLY option because you are not exposed to anything different.
Like with anything else in the world, we have to take the good with the bad. Social media is no different. It’s definitely a good thing that mental health is now a topic that is discussed and embraced with less shame or stigma than in the past. But we all have a responsibility to do our due diligence and filter the information we are consuming online through a trusted source or professional so that we don’t unintentionally cause more damage to our well being while trying to make it better.
If you have found information on social media about mental health and it has led you to realize that you may need to take that next step and work with a therapist contact us, we can help.