It takes just one simple online search to uncover all sorts of information on the dangers of social media. From lost productivity to impairing sleep, there is no lack of research and experts calling out the downside of social media usage. One area in particular that often makes media headlines is how social media is harming mental health.
Mood changes, increased anxiety and erosion of self-esteem are just a few ways social media has been painted as “the bad guy.” But what’s discussed far less often is the positive aspects of what social media can offer to people, especially those in isolated or isolating situations. As a mental health advocate and a person who lives with mental illness myself, I understand first-hand how important this can be.
As a teenager, I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was living with nightmares, anxiety attacks and even dissociation. It seemed natural to me that I turned online — I was a teenager, and that’s what teenagers do. What I found was a community of peers where I felt understood and supported. I no longer felt alone. This is what social media offered me, and continues to offer many youth struggling today. Eventually, it led me to forge a career in youth mental health advocacy.
The power of an online community goes beyond mental health. It’s only through social media that people across the country can seek and share real-time support with another. Imagine the possibilities for when we start to harness the organic values of these communities.
Introducing, Speakbox. Speakbox is a first-of-its-kind digital mental health service that helps you manage your mind by pairing online peer support with secure digital journaling and access to a library of evidence-based activities that can help users manage their mental health with physician-approved tactics. This month, we’re expanding from an online portal to an app available on both Android and iOS. The service is completely free and available to everyone. Sign up at speakbox.ca and be the first to know when the app becomes available for download.
If as a country, we are truly committed to changing the state of mental health, we need to integrate new and innovative thinking that promotes patient empowerment and leads to improved health outcomes. This is the focus of Canada Health Infoway’s movement for nationwide digital health — ACCESS 2022. Speakbox is an early partner in this initiative and is working to bring together the collective expertise of an agile technology sector, the knowledge base of health system experts, and insights and experiences of patients and caregivers, to ultimately meet and exceed the demands of Canadians in the 21st century.
So, are the experts right about social media — should we log off for the sake of our mental health? Sometimes, yes. But, the power of connection and the information that can be accessed because of digital advancement in health has more positive than negative attributes in my books.
Aidan Scott is Co-Founder of Speakbox. After experiencing several challenges attempting to access care after being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by childhood trauma. Aidan's experience, reinforced by his experiences working in the public health sector has inspired him to seek out new ways to reduce barriers and improve access to mental health care using technology.