Social Media and Mental Health: Benefits, Risks, and Opportunities for Research and Practice
Journal of Technology in Behavioral Science
Social media platforms are popular venues for sharing personal experiences, seeking information, and offering peer-to-peer support among individuals living with mental illness. With significant shortfalls in the availability, quality, and reach of evidence-based mental health services across the United States and globally, social media platforms may afford new opportunities to bridge this gap. However, caution is warranted, as numerous studies highlight risks of social media use for mental
... h. In this commentary, we consider the role of social media as a potentially viable intervention platform for offering support to persons with mental disorders, promoting engagement and retention in care, and enhancing existing mental health services. Specifically, we summarize current research on the use of social media among mental health service users, and early efforts using social media for the delivery of evidence-based programs. We also review the risks, potential harms, and necessary safety precautions with using social media for mental health. To conclude, we explore opportunities using data science and machine learning, for example by leveraging social media for detecting mental disorders and developing predictive models aimed at characterizing the aetiology and progression of mental disorders. These various efforts using social media, as summarized in this commentary, hold promise for improving the lives of individuals living with mental disorders.