In recent years there has been a movement towards normalizing mental health issues and talking about mental health issues in wider society. This movement is definitely a positive step forward as it is encouraging people to be more open about mental health and promotes the idea that talking about mental health should be as normalized as talking about physical health. Allowing people to talk about mental health and in some cases encouraging people to use mental health services or find their own therapist is definitely a step in the right direction.
Social media has played a big part in encouraging mental health conversations, you have probably seen motivational posts on social media feeds whether from licensed therapists, or just influencers. Personally, I never gave much thought to the rise of Instagram therapy or its impacts of it on wider society until a recently listened to a podcast episode of Sounds Like a Cult that was all about Instagram therapy. This podcast, it talks about some of the more harmful sides of social media and the potential rise of what is known as grifters through this movement.
One of the biggest issues with social media therapy that the podcast discusses is that anyone can claim to be a mental health expert via social media. There is no licensing or vetting process for the people claiming to be experts on social media and there are also very few repercussions is someone gives harmful or inaccurate advice. Therapy and mental health advice should be personal and unique to the individual receiving the advice. With Social media therapy, the advice is often general and large blanket statements are often made. While sometimes the advice given by social media therapists is meant to be thought-provoking or interesting. It can dangerous to provide advice without knowing their unique situations and history.
One of the most widely well-known Instagram therapists is Dr Nicole LaPera, who has become a very controversial figure in the world of Instagram therapy. Dr LaPera’s rhetoric around “self-healing” has been accused of gaslighting women of colour and people of lower socio-economic status. On the other hand, others have claimed that her methods have changed their lives for the better and have allowed them reduce or abandon traditional in-person therapy. These two views of the same person really shows how publicly giving mental health advice can be both helpful and harmful.
The question of whether social media therapy is harmful or helpful is a difficult one to answer. On the one hand, it normalizes talking about mental health and creates a space for people to talk about issues and realize they’re not alone. It also makes mental health advice more accessible for people who can’t afford traditional therapy. On the other side of the coin, there is no system to regulate who is giving out advice or to control who sees the advice and how it will impact them. So how do we find this balance between encouraging open conversations while ensuring that we are protecting ourselves from falling victim to less sincere or unhelpful advice? Are there ways that we can better monitor this form of social media? Unfortunately as it stands now, the responsibility has fallen onto us, the consumers of social media to monitor ourselves and decide which advice is considered helpful or harmful.
Social media posts:
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