The portrayal of mental illness on social media can be misleading

By Olivia Svoboda

The Jag

Around the world, people young and old turn to the internet for answers to their every question. The internet fills many roles, such as chef, mechanic, teacher, consultant, and especially doctor. Search up a symptom and the internet can give all the possibilities, whether that be a mild, common condition, or a fatal disease that requires immediate attention.

With the rise in mental health issues in teenagers, the internet serves as the easiest outlet to find answers to their confusing thoughts, emotions, and desires. Discussion about mental illness can be found on nearly every social media app, whether that be TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or Tumblr.

Dwila Cox is one of Blue Springs South’s counselors. She advises that students do not use the internet as their primary source of information on mental health.

“It’s not wise for kids to go, or anybody really, and just self-diagnose, because there is a lot more to go into it,” Cox said.

Misinformation about mental illness can come in all forms. Whether it be a YouTube video telling viewers the symptoms in just five minutes, an Instagram post detailing the signs in a few slides, or a TikTok video that claims a harmless trait could be a sign of something much worse.

Social media is not formatted to be able to share lots of information and have serious discussions. Awareness is important, but if the audience is misled, any good intentions are lost.

“Some of these things that are on social media, it can oversimplify what a diagnosis is. I mean, everybody’s going to feel sad. Some people are going to feel really down and have really bad days. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re depressed,” Cox said.

If a person is unable to seek professional help, then they must do thorough research that is done through many outlets. Simply looking for a name to the issue is not enough. It is important for a person to not get set on a potential mental illness without a professional opinion.

“Just trying to find a label doesn’t solve the problem. It’s looking at more, everything in context, and then trying to look at the solution. And sometimes we’re too quick to try to label,” Cox said.

If it is possible, though, it is always best to get the opinion of a professional.

“Whether they need to go to their doctor or seek out talking to a therapist, if they really are concerned about life issues, but not to get so caught up in the diagnosis, but to understand what is going on in their life. What are the struggles to talk about that, and to maybe seek some help in that. And then more clarity will come,” Cox said.