For the past few years, I have actively been using social media in relation to mental health awareness, whether it has been to connect to others or to share my latest blog post. It is absolutely amazing how the internet has allowed for these supportive communities of mental health warriors to come together from all across the globe! As someone who has been on different platforms, from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter, I have also seen the misuse of social media in relation to mental health & mental illness posting.
Here, I provide a list of Do’s & Don’ts of Mental Health-related Social Media Usage:
DON’T: Ask for medical advice online!
It seems like half of the posts on Facebook bipolar-related groups are asking about which meds to take and at what doses… NO. PLEASE, NO. If you have any questions about your psychiatric medications, your treatment options, or potential side effects, contact your doctor. Someone online may have had a horrible experience with a drug that may turn out to be life-saving for you. Every single person is different, so asking fellow patients online for medical advice is wrong. Don’t ask random people on the internet and don’t rely on Dr. Google. Do not stop meds without your doctor’s consent… ever. If you have questions on your psychiatric medication, that is what psychiatrists are for!
DO: Ask for helpful resources!
There are so, SO many books, sites, accounts, pages, groups, YouTube videos, and blogs to explore! If you feel overwhelmed and want to hear what resources have helped others with their illnesses, ask away! You can easily leave a tweet or post asking about people’s favorite memoir or educational site related to your diagnosis, and I’m sure the mental health community will come to help you out!
DON’T: Post images which can clearly trigger others!
There is no way to be mindful of every single person’s triggers, but there are some more obvious ones to avoid. Please, don’t post images of self-harm, for example. I understand that some people want to post to educate others or show that they are not alone, and I completely support that cause… but there are better ways to accomplish that agenda! You can absolutely post about your struggle with suicidality or self-harm without including gruesome images.
DO: Use the opportunity to connect with others!
There are so many ways to connect with others! There are Facebook groups for illnesses, Instagram accounts with targeted audiences, and Twitter accounts for mental health awareness. Engaging with others online can be as simple as ‘liking’ a post or leaving a comment. The posts of others can even lead to open conversations about topics such as stigma. It may even inspire you to create content of your own! I’ve connected to heads of mental health campaigns, psychologists, psychiatrists, professors, writers, bloggers, mental health apps, and fellow mental health warriors… it is awesome! It is amazing what the online community is capable of!
DON’T: Act as if you are an expert!
Guess what? If you are online, it is NOT your place to diagnose others, give medical advice, or tell others to stop taking their medications. You are free to give someone a list of helpful resources (i.e. site to look up mental health providers) if they are looking for help, but you are not the person to provide a diagnosis, therapy, or treatment recommendations.