The dangers of TikTok tips for mental health |  Science and Technology

The dangers of TikTok tips for mental health | Science and Technology

Psychiatrists often recommend dealing with trauma by sharing experiences in familiar group settings after first receiving professional help. “This kind of participation is very therapeutic,” says Ignacio Severa, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in the behavioral addiction unit at Gregorio Marañón Hospital in Madrid. This safe mode stands in stark contrast to TikTok, which has become an unfiltered platform for expressing trauma, anxiety and fears amid a wave of mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic. Social media influencers lie on Dr.TikTok’s sofa to share their experiences with their thousands of followers. In this setting, influencers set the rules, choose themes, and set the style. It is somewhat liberating and serves the beneficial purpose of erasing mental health stigmas. But there are also risks. Followers may be tempted to self-diagnose based on what they see and hear on TikTok, and can start changing behaviors without professional supervision. Civeira warns: “Younger people tend to imitate, and will imitate a behavior just because the person seems interesting or attractive, even though the information is not substantiated.”

34-year-old influencer Rocio Romero (Tweet embed) with nearly 400,000 followers on Instagram. Romero has been making a living on social media since 2016 from her numerous sponsorships. She does not create content specific to mental health, but often makes comic posts about everyday situations, such as The pressures women face today. A few years ago, I spoke about an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa) that started as a young girl and continued into her mid-twenties. “We never talked about it in my family – I buried it and was afraid to discuss it on the Internet because I didn’t know how to go about it,” Romero said. She decided to make a video with the help of her psychiatrist, and encouraged her followers to send in questions. Just a few days later, Romero received more than 1,000 emails. “People really opened up after I shared the most vulnerable part of my life. I started getting questions about eating disorders, abuse, suicidal thoughts… I realized I wasn’t equipped to deal with this.”

Rocío Romero, better known online as @roenlared.

Romero first thought of posting a follow-up video with the help of her psychiatrist, but then came up with a better idea. I created Caliope, an audio app that focuses on emotional well-being and already has 16 professional therapists (influencers like Tweet embedAnd the Tweet embed And the @dr.rosamolina) Respond to users’ questions.

Social media can be a powerful tool for breaking prejudices and challenging things that aren’t working well. Anna Belen Mediadia (Tweet embed) is a psychologist who creates professional content for social media and has over 41,000 followers on Instagram. She asked patients to come to her for treatment after seeing some contacts on social media doing the same. “One of my patients was following a novel about fat phobia, and one day she identified herself with this condition. She would feel shy at meal times, or when she would eat some cake with friends. Then she would force herself to exercise on the same day. That’s when she decided to come to me for a consultation. We identified Some warning signs like an obsession with her body and a preference for loose-fitting clothes…we caught her in time.”

Sarah Sarmiento is a psychologist who focuses on her mental health TikTok channel He has 2.1 million likes. She sees many confused or self-diagnosed patients by what they see on social media, often posted by completely anonymous people. “We have to dismantle that self-image and help them get rid of all the labels they have imposed on themselves. A lot of teens imagine they have a disorder when they are actually going through a normal process. Their personalities are still developing and they don’t have any disorder. They simply go through a phase of disorder,” Sarmiento said. The pinnacle of suffering.” It can be dangerous when people try to change their behavior without consulting a professional, just because they are convinced they are suitable for the diagnosis, she says.

Robin Aviles He is the 23-year-old TikTokker who has more than 11.5 million fans and he also makes his living from social media and sponsorship. Known for his LGTBQ+ activism and dry sense of humor, Avilés has posted an amazing confession. “When I was 12, I had anorexia. I was considered a school poof… and above all, I was the fat boy. I couldn’t stand it anymore and said I wouldn’t be fat anymore. I started watching what I ate and counting calories. thermal”. When his family realized what he was doing, they took him to the doctor who said, “These problems are more common for girls.”

“I don’t like to talk much about my private life,” Aviles told EL PAÍS. “If I get frustrated that I just broke up with my boyfriend, I keep it private. I keep my partner to myself. When I decided to talk about an eating disorder that I overcame years ago, it was something I first discussed with a professional. I was very worried about it because you don’t know How would people or sponsors react. A lot of people have ideas to express in songs. I make videos to express myself and I appreciate the gratitude of young people who learned something from my posts about a problem they were afraid to bring up.”

But the fallout from his video post has proven difficult to deal with. Avilés has started receiving hundreds of direct messages through the app from young people asking for advice. “I can’t be the personal therapist for half a million people with problems. I’m not a psychologist… I’m no one… I have no idea who [professional] Guidelines,” he said. But some messages prompted him to respond. The mother of a 14-year-old wanted to take him to a psychiatrist after he told her he was gay. Sometimes I decide to take responsibility, so I told him he was totally fine… but to involve myself, said Aviles. In each case it would be irresponsible and also harm my mental health.”

Instagram beta software

In June, Instagram launched the Collective Well-Being Project, a pilot program in the US to train about 50 people in the “responsible” creation of content related to emotional well-being. The project is led by a committee of independent health professionals. Now, when a user searches for content related to eating disorders or suicide, a tab automatically pops up with information and ways to contact organizations with specific expertise. “We don’t allow content that promotes self-harm and eating disorders,” Instagram said.

In Spain, suicide was the second leading cause of death after cancer among young people aged 15-29 in 2020. The same year saw a record number of children under 15 committed suicide. In September 2022, the Spanish Ministry of Public Health will recruit 20 resident medical trainees in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry.

TikTok has also implemented some measures to combat the problem. When the user searches for content related to suicidal behavior, the app displays information about suicide prevention helplines. TikTok has more than 1 billion users worldwide, 33% of whom are under the age of 25.

Samantha, a contestant at Operación Triunfo 2020.
Samantha, a contestant at Operación Triunfo 2020. _Samantha

When Tweet embed (300,000 followers on Instagram) Became a contestant on Operación Triunfo 2020, a music competition on Spanish reality TV, she decided to tell her fans that she was having panic attacks because she wanted to remove the stigma about mental health issues. “It was definitely a click catching… We were in the middle of the show, and I uploaded a picture of myself smiling with a text saying I’m not feeling well. It got over 5,000 mostly supportive comments.” Samantha had her first panic attack when she was 21. “I didn’t feel comfortable with anyone, even my mother once. We were shopping and I just looked at her and started having a panic attack. I knew I had to see a psychiatrist, but I didn’t say anything. I had been seeing a therapist seven years ago and I knew it was time to speak up. Being honest about this condition I still have. Not everything is a party on Instagram — if something goes wrong, you have to say something.”

Catherine Keys An epidemiologist who researches adolescent suicide at Columbia University (New York). She believes that young people who experience personal struggles, clash with family and friends, and who may be socially excluded or marginalized are more susceptible to misinformation on social media. According to psychiatrist Ignacio Severa, these vulnerable young people have more difficulty absorbing persistent content suggestions from social media algorithms. “If you say on Instagram that chocolate with 90% cocoa causes schizophrenia, people with fewer resources will have more trouble filtering, comparing and validating information.”

Claudia Pradas (Tweet embed), a psychologist with 17.5 million likes on TikTok, says one of the biggest problems is that people confuse anecdotes with diagnostic criteria. “People think that accidentally choosing a fork instead of a knife is a symptom of ADHD just because the same thing happened to an influential person.” Pradas is part of a new wave of psychologists creating mental health content for social media, and they believe young people are turning to social media for help because they have been hurt by attitudes of parents and grandparents who had no emotional education. The turning point came with the pandemic that prompted young people to share their pain. “I try to get closer to them by sharing personal stories like bullying I experienced in high school – I was a friendless freak. I try to show that this is a safe place for them.” The hashtag #saludmental (#mentalhealth) on TikTok has over 8.4 billion views.


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