Over the past 24 hours, the hashtag #MyMentalHealthIn5Words has exploded on social media, saturating the Twitterverse with more than 62,000 tweets and rising into the top ten global trends. Users have shared everything from from heart-wrenching anecdotes about their lives to inspiring messages of solidarity and hope. All in all, the hashtag provides an unprecedented glimpse into just how widespread mental health experiences are in the world.
Without a doubt, this trend represents a step forward in the battle to confront mental health stigma. By sharing publicly about their own wellness struggles, users simultaneously encourage others to open up about mental health, while also de-stigmafying their own experiences on a personal level.
I can’t stop thinking ever
— Schizophrenic.NYC (@SchizophrenicNY) December 18, 2017
Hello Darkness, my old friend
— Matthew T. Miller (@mattttmillerrrr) December 18, 2017
The “Mental Health In 5 Words” trend represents a culmination of the effort to address mental health stigma in the public sphere. Celebrities, government agencies, and non-profits have devoted considerable time and resources to addressing this problem in recent years. And many publicly funded campaigns, including the Alameda County Everyone Counts Campaign, have made inroads towards reducing discrimination and stigma for those with mental health experiences.
Yet, like so many well-intended campaigns in the Information Age, the #MyMentalHealthIn5Words trend also contains a dark side: namely the negative influence that social mental can have on mental health.
Several academic studies have documented the correlation between teen use of social networks and poor mental health. Last week, internet giant Facebook finally acknowledged that spending time on social media networks, especially if you don’t contribute content, can lead to negative mental health effects.
Too many suffer in silence #MyMentalHealthIn5Words
— luisa (@itsluisagibson) December 18, 2017
So is the #MyMentalHealthIn5Words trend a net positive for our mental health?
It’s hard to say definitively, but at least it’s prompting people to support each other and help confront mental health stigma — a clear improvement over the negativity and harassment that often dominate our newsfeeds.
Just don’t devote hours of your day to following the trend…
by Patrick Glass