Can social media help boost your mental health? Or is this an oxymoron?

If you spend a lot of time scrolling on Instagram, while maybe struggling with your mental health, be reassured, you’re not alone, and this article is for you

Mental health issues are of course not new, but the focus on this topic on social media is. Instagram, until recently, was not seen as a beneficial space for mental health, in fact quite the opposite. Today, however, many accounts on Instagram are undertaking the immense task of destigmatising mental health issues, moving away from the apparent 'perfect life' that the platform represents too. But do these mental health ‘support’ accounts, created by influencers or anonymous people, provide significant help? Do you like reading positive affirmations to help you through your day? Does it help you to read that there are others like you and that they understand you?

Trying to trace back the origin of support accounts, compiling encouraging quotes and beautiful graphics, it is clear that - although several thousands of publications date back to the pre-covid era - many of these accounts have been created around the beginning of the pandemic, when we all clearly needed it. This surge in social media mental health accounts is understandable considering the increase in the "prevalence of anxiety and depression", which doubled in some countries (OECD) during the successive lockdowns. And these accounts managed to attract a huge number of followers among younger generations, many of whom felt the need, both in isolation and in their gradual return to ‘real’ life, to receive this kind of digital support, a simple nudge, an incentive to get on and keep trying and to achieve goals.

If this is not your day, your week, or even your month, here are a few of these accounts to remind you that you are not alone in your situation and that you are not stuck and that there is always hope. For example, @theopeninvite, with their writings on the walls of many cities aims to comfort you, well, all around the world. If you struggle with change, whether its places or people, they will be the other ones to remind you that ‘some things have to end for better things to begin’. A bit extra, but sometimes these words really help even if it makes you cringe…. Some accounts to have a look at are:

@thehappysnapshot, will tell your anxiety to ‘shut the hell up’ and posts reels about distributing heartfelt compliments to total strangers to better their days (and yours).

@oshthoughts, has pretty and colored graphics and will make sure you ‘stay close to those who feel like sunshine’. Check out also other community aimed accounts, check out @dlcanxiety and @anxiety_wellbeing.

Some of these accounts are admittedly tinged with a bit (!) of the superficiality and kitsch of social media, putting aesthetics before all else, risking overpowering the message with pretty drawings and instagrammable colours. However, who doesn’t need to hear once in a while that ‘it’s ok if you’re still hurting over something you thought you’d healed from’(@bandaidforheart, or ‘you can be full of love and light and still have bad days’. And if that comes in a pretty package, so be it?

Some of these accounts only provide quotes, while others give advice on how to handle certain mental health situations and provide a sense of community where you can share your experiences and hear those of others. Neither miraculous nor medical, these sayings and quotes should of course never replace talking to someone or seeing a therapist. They are not a remedy in themselves but could provide some real support to those who struggle with diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health issues and help to break down the stigma and the solitude which often comes with mental health and allow us to put our feelings and situations into perspective. Good accounts to follow for a sense of community and feeling understood are @letstalk.mentalhealth and @realdepressionproject. But also, importantly, check out the NHS website about mental health issues and where to find help if you need it,

But, if you need just that little bit of extra oomph to reassure you, even if it is a cheesy quote from some Instagram account, why not? If it puts a smile on your face, it may be worth it. And it helps to take you eye of reels about cute cats and dogs for a bit :)