Mental Health & Social Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Twitter
Dec 13

Mental Health & Social Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A Smartphone showing social media icons such as Twitter and Facebook

Our lives are played out upon the stages of Twitter and Facebook. Likes and shares are our applause and comments the reviews of our peers.

The frequent hits of dopamine feed our growing obsession and the chance to “go viral” drives us ever forward in acts of oversharing that wouldn’t have been considered 15 years ago.

The anonymity and distance enjoyed by bigoted minds allows them to hurl caustic abuse at any who catch their eye.

The pack mentality rules here as like minds stick together and reinforce the belief that they are right, and any who disagree are marked as overly sensitive “snowflakes”.

A lack of real accountability means that people will frequently indulge in their most base attitudes. This is a problem for vulnerable individuals when they disclose.

However, social media has also shown the brighter side of human nature. Support groups, campaigns, fundraising and more can all be seen, and the results speak for themselves.

So how should we approach the likes of Twitter and Facebook?

We are in a vulnerable position when sharing but we are often the loudest voices in the awareness campaigns.

We know the pain, we’ve gone through the crucible. For some of us social media is one of the few areas where we can interact with others.

 It can be the last bastion of help for those who have immense difficulty interacting with the world – a world that still consistently fails to understand and accept the problems faced by people who experience mental ill health.

"For some of us social media is one of the few areas where we can interact with" others"

Twitter is not the Place for your Pain

So, I was shocked to see a fellow mental health campaigner belittle the pain of another simply because they had chosen Twitter to reach out on.

I was particularly surprised because he claims to be fighting stigma but here he was contributing to that stigma with his tweet. When others disagreed with him he blocked them.

This is very worrying considering the number of followers he has.

Like the comments made by Andrew Tate, here we have someone with thousands of followers setting arbitrary standards for what it means to experience mental ill health.

The narrative being that any who don’t meet these standards don’t experience any real difficulties.

This invalidation does nothing but cause further pain.

Emotional, psychological and physical pain torments us every day. What we go through isn’t a difficult day or a rough afternoon. It is weeks, months, years of pain.

The constant torture of being betrayed by your own mind and punished by your emotions leaves you fractured to your core.

Kicking them While they are Down

​How do you think we will feel when someone says our pain isn’t real because we’re asking for help on Twitter?

It hearkens back to accusations of “attention seeker”, which I bet most of us have experienced and which are essentially the online equivalent of kicking someone while they are down.

They have felt the need to reach out. Their pain is such that they are asking for help. So why do you think that their chosen medium of communication trivialises their trauma?

How is their agony less than that of the person talking on the phone? Is it because people use Twitter for attention? That there are attention hungry trolls out there tweeting for laughs?

Guess what? Crisis lines get that too. Prank callers and inappropriate callers block the lines making it harder for people to get through.

So why is Twitter so off limits when seeking help?

Dismissing someone's Pain is Dangerous

Dismissing someone leaves them feeling even more hurt and alone than when they first reached out. By doing that you take away the one small hope they had of getting support:

  • You call them a liar.
  • You tell them they aren’t important.

We know how much strain mental health services are under, how hard it is to get professional care and how long the wait is.

Knowing this and still telling someone that “a cry for help is through phone services, not on Twitter” is abhorrent.

​The Small Talk Saves Lives campaign run by Samaritans and Network Rail is based upon the idea that taking a moment to chat to someone can help them on the road to recovery and ultimately save lives.

Yes, save lives! Engaging someone in conversation, be it in real life or online, can help prevent suicide.

If someone is reaching out online take a moment to ask if they are ok, show you care; don’t dismiss them purely because they are asking on Twitter.

Listening to someone can be emotionally challenging and it’s important to keep safe when doing this.

So, remember that we can always point them in the direction of Samaritans or other support lines. That’s what they are there for and what they have trained to do.

We don’t have to take everything on ourselves and it’s fine if you feel you can’t talk with someone because it is too hard. I get it; I know what that’s like.

What we must avoid is telling people that their feelings are invalid because they aren’t meeting a set of arbitrary standards that we think they should abide by.

In a world where we are fighting daily for acceptance the last thing we ought to do is judge others’ suffering and disregard it because it’s not what we are accustomed to.

Isn’t that part of what we are fighting against?

Telling someone that “a cry for help is through phone services not on twitter” is abhorrent.

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​​​​Similar Experience?

Thank you for reading. If you have had a similar experience please let us know in the comments below.

I promise to read them all and reply. Let's beat mental health stigma together.