Updated on 1/28/21
Snapchat announced last week they would be offering in-app mental health resources for users. Searches for words linked to anxiety, depression, stress, suicidal thoughts, grief, and bullying will trigger a tool called Here For You, designed to guide the user about who to speak to about such things and also how to help a friend who may be struggling. They additionally are offering short TV shows you watch in the app, focused on mental health, called Mind Yourself, which follows young people dealing with or recovering from a mental health issue.
As a therapist — who also uses Snapchat, I’m in the 10% of users not 13-24 years old — I’m always excited when mental health is being discussed openly. More conversation, increased awareness, and accessibility to resources all help to decrease the stigma around mental health issues.
According to the CDC, 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety and 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression. Additionally, more than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime and 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year. The question remains: How do we use the technology that’s available to provide needed support?
Social Media’s Opportunity to Create Positive Change
While social media platforms have been under scrutiny over the years — with questions of who should engage and for how long — there are worried discussions about the negative effects of overuse and a question of how to maintain well-being as a result of too much social media engagement and too little IRL encounters. These are necessary conversations, for sure, but regardless of where your opinion falls on the spectrum of this conversation, one fact remains; young people are using it. The core question has moved on from whether we should be allowing it, to: How can we optimize its use and create opportunity for awareness?
There are many resources available online for mental health. Instagram for example has mental health professionals popping up everywhere with amazing posts about all sorts of topics related to depression, anxiety, self-care, and much more. Additionally, many resources exist on the Internet, self-help books, articles, magazines, and other media.
Resources Aren’t a Replacement for Therapy
While these resources are helpful and great to have in our day-to-day lives, these are not substitutes for engaging in your own therapy process. Attending therapy is not the same as reading a book or article; it is an individualized process with a professional trained in supporting you, giving you the feedback, and providing resources that you specifically need, especially in times of crisis.
Usage of online therapy
When Talkspace first laid claim to the mental health space, credibility was low. It was a tough sell on seasoned mental health professionals. Many at the time wondered how Talkspace can work and if it was ethical. There were fears about the decline of integrity and effectiveness. Nine years later, there’s a waitlist for therapists to join the platform.
We know for a fact that online therapy is indeed effective. Thanks to technology, millions of people have access to therapy that would otherwise be incapable of getting the help that they need.
Technology — online therapy, social media, podcasts, blogs, AI, etc. — has become an essential aspect of our daily lives. We’re just beginning to understand its power to enhance our well-being and bridge the gaps in our current mental health system. This is just the start of the utilization of technology for mental health and I’m looking forward to what’s yet to come.