Social Media Normalizes Mental Health Discussions, But Misconceptions Abound
Psychology experts explain how professionals can help teach the difference between mental health diagnoses
Posted in: Faculty Voices
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so to help fight the stigma and clarify misconceptions about mental health conditions, we checked in with experts from the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) team at Montclair.
Associate Director Melissa Zarin and Coordinator of Outreach and Prevention Tiffany Ciprian designed a new series called “So You Think You Have…” to help students differentiate between mental health diagnoses and give them an opportunity to hear directly from a professional, outside of therapy.
The experts say they have noticed a trend of students learning more about mental health in middle and high school, and seeing it discussed more openly on television shows, Instagram, TikTok and other social platforms.
The most asked about topics include ADHD, depression, anxiety, substance use, OCD and eating disorders.
What are the benefits and drawbacks to having people discuss mental health conditions more openly?
The greatest benefit is it takes the sigma away. This is especially important for communities where talking about mental health is usually not as common. It also lets individuals know they are not alone. We know from research that peer to peer discussions about mental health reduces stigma.
A possible drawback may be misinformation. We hope that when a person is willing to talk about their mental health with others, it is a positive interaction. Sometimes, though, a person may open up to someone who may have had a negative past experience and or mental health bias. This in turn can turn a student off to seeking help and make them second guess their mental health challenges.
This speaks to the importance of accurate mental health messaging by social media to combat negative or incorrect messages. Mental health providers and psychoeducation can play a powerful role in dispelling these myths, especially on college campuses.
What should someone do if they watch a video on social media about a mental health diagnosis and think they match the symptoms?
If a Montclair student is concerned they are experiencing certain symptoms and want to explore it further, they have several options. They can attend one of CAPS’s drop-in Let’s Talk sessions that happen nine times a week during the semester. They can also set up an intake appointment at CAPS and talk further with a clinician. Another option would be to talk with their primary care provider who can also assess their symptoms and make recommendations.
For a staff or faculty member, I would suggest they could start with a primary care doctor as a beginning step to get preliminary feedback. Additionally, most employers including the University have Employee Assistance Programs that help employees navigate mental health services for themselves or their families.
This is the same recommendation for anyone who watches a video or reads an article on social media about mental health and feels they relate to the symptoms discussed. A conversation with your primary doctor is a great place to start. Most doctors now give short mental health surveys to help patients identify their mental health symptoms. Additionally, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is a great resource for reliable mental health information.
For more information about CAPS, visit montclair.edu/counseling-and-psychological-services. To set up an interview, contact the Media Relations team.