The Power of Social Media for Mental Health

 In Mental Health, MHFA

Social media is quickly becoming an integral part of our everyday lives. It is a powerful tool for connecting people across the world, including those living with a mental illness.

Creating social support networks

Private Facebook groups are helping to promote community and support among people living with mental illnesses a study reported on ABC News found. The private or “secret” Facebook groups cannot be found through public searches. Members must be added to the group by other members who are experiencing or living with someone with a mental illness. This allows the administrators to foster communities around specific conditions, such as endometriosis or psycho-social disability. The Facebook groups are facilitated by volunteer administrators or an associated organisation.

Reducing social isolation

Without the social connectivity provided by the Facebook group, many members would experience isolation that could deteriorate their mental health. The groups provide a community and the knowledge that they are not alone in their experience. Members can participate from communities all across Australia, which is especially helpful for those in isolated rural areas. Dr. Melanie Keep, an e-Health researcher working at the University of Sydney, praised the digital movement:

These groups play an important role in allowing people access to peer support that is otherwise limited by time and geography.

Engaging with the group by posting personal stories, or engaging with other members’ stories, has a significant benefit to mental health, Dr. Keep’s study found. Even for members who are less directly engaged – who prefer to read through the posts without interacting themselves – benefit greatly.

Sharing resources with one another

Members of the private groups are invited to share their stories, advice and emotional support. Other groups invite members to share personal stories, or artwork depicting their experience. Some of the content shared to the groups include articles on self-care, the NDIS, causes of mental illness and practical day-to-day coping strategies. For Dr. Keep, the benefits of online support groups are substantial:

It’s the value of talking to someone whose been through it all before, and can make things less scary, however awful it may be.

Members are also encouraged to seek professional medical advice where possible, so that they are receiving the most accurate information possible. But for those who lack easy access to medical services, the online support groups provide an alternative to complete isolation.

How you can help

Just like these Facebook groups are creating communities of emotional and practical support, so too do we want to create a community of people equipped to help those with mental health concerns. By enrolling in Mental Health First Aid Training and becoming a certified MHFAider, you can make a difference. Find out about the different MHFA programs that we offer and choose the one that best suits you today.

Steph Downing
Stephanie Downing is the administrative assistant for Hero Town Geelong. Born and raised in Geelong, Australia, Stephanie is a graduate of Deakin University with her Honours degree in Professional and Creative Writing. She adores words of all sorts and is especially infatuated with the medium of poetry and fiction, with publications of her work being featured in magazines such as WORDLY Magazine, Plumwood Mountain Journal and Cordite Poetry Review.
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