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Protect your mental health online | Mental Health Awareness Week

By Chloe Young on May 16, 2019

The growth of social media over the last decade has established a new medium for human interaction. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have allowed us to stay connected around the world 24/7.

According to research, there will be 3 billion active monthly users of social media by 2021. It’s clear that social media has become an integral part of our lives. 

Social media can be a positive place to raise awareness for campaigns, immediate news notifications and businesses to reinforce a positive message. Although it has shown some implications for peoples mental health, with the younger generation being the main ones affected. This has received some significant attention over the years and the correlation it has with the growth of social media.  

Social media is often linked to instant gratification — the need to experience fast and short term pleasure. The hit of dopamine in the brain acts as a reward that reinforces this behaviour, leading you to refresh your social media feeds. 

The detrimental effect this can have on young users is that if gratification isn't received, the user may internalise beliefs that they aren't enough, or they're not popular or funny, purely based on the number of likes they receive. People are looking for personal validation through these platforms, despite this not being a true reflection of their image in others eyes. The absence of this gratification increases the feelings of anxiety and loneliness. 

There is a variety of ways we can begin protecting our mental health.

  • Being more conscious of the time we spend on social media, the less time you spend scrolling through other people’s profiles, the more time you can focus on yourself and improve your own self-confidence. 

  • Try to be aware when you catch yourself slipping into that self-comparison mode. Unfollow accounts that trigger a feeling of insecurity. If you don’t want them to know, consider muting or blocking them if it’s possible on the platform.
 
  • There are many accounts out there that reinforce positive messaging. Follow those type of accounts that make you feel good. There are many accounts that reflect true life and our realities. This can minimise the effect of only seeing ‘picture-perfect images’. 

  • Your quality of sleep can have a significant effect on your mental health. We find ourselves scrolling through our feeds at this time of night. Why not set yourself a strict rule, of not going on your phone a minimum of 40 minutes to an hour before bed to see if that improves the quality of your sleep.


Where can you receive further help? 

Samaritans have been working with social media sites to make sure people that are distressed are referred to the appropriate sources of support. However, if you feel distressed and need to talk about how you’re feeling or a difficult time you’re going through, Samaritans are there to listen 24/7. You can call 116 123 for free or visit their website. 

There are also many resources on Mind Mid and North East Essex for those who need support and guidance. Whether you’re stressed, depressed or in crisis, no one should have to face mental health alone.