Social media and mental health: the up side

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Woman pointing to social iconEvery day, Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) counsellors see clients who need help. Sometimes, clients take that very first step to get help because of what they see in the news and/or on social media. Though it’s possible to waste many hours on TV, the internet and multiple social media outlets, the bottom line is this: these are powerful tools that can encourage users to get the help they need to take care of their own mental health!

The triggering event

Some clients go through hard times and don’t get any help at the time of the event. This can be perfectly fine or can leave the incident unresolved in some way. A report on the news or on social media of a similar event can bring back a flood of memories of their own experience. If there’s an unresolved issue that a client still needs support with, this triggering event can be just the inspiration they need to reach out and get help.

The ‘you are not alone’ event

Many people are suffering in silence in some way, not getting the help they need to address the issues they’re currently struggling with. When the media talks about mental health, it drags an often-stigmatized topic a bit further out of the closet.

Robin Williams’ suicide is a good example of this. While many of us were saddened by the death of someone who made us laugh so much, we were also talking about depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide. Taboo topics not that long ago. The widespread media coverage of Robin Williams’ death struck a chord with people who were suffering in silence, showing them that they are not alone and there are good reasons to seek help and end their own isolation.

Bell Let’s Talk Day reminds us that ‘talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness.’ And these days, the thing that gets us talking the most is what we see on social media (for better or for worse).

When EFAP counsellors see clients, we often ask what made them decide to open up to a professional for the first time in their lives. It’s becoming more common to hear about one of these ‘triggering’ or ‘you’re not alone’ events. Asking for help is just about the bravest thing anyone can do and however clients get to us, we’re here, ready to provide support. A lot of social media may not matter, but when something in the news inspires people to get help, well…social media matters a lot.

By Nathalie Cholette

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