This blog mentions suicide
For as long as we can remember, psychology, mental health, psychiatrists and psychologists have been viewed through a certain lens of taboo. One of the most infamous portrayals of this taboo in our country is the misinformed comment that people make about psychiatrists and psychologists, calling them “Paaglon ka doctor paagal” (The doctor who treats crazy people is also crazy). The mental health care system of India is fragile, to say the least, and the social stigma that comes along with it, adds to this fragility.
However, over the past few years, there have been many more conversations regarding the importance of mental health, especially on social media. More individuals are advocating the importance of it (and in turn, helping destigmatize it). Mental health professionals have started imparting knowledge regarding various concepts through creative posts, stories and Instagram reels. Many non-profit organizations that work for mental health, similarly, put up content that helps spread awareness and support. With the surge of such positive conversations on media platforms, the stigma around mental health (and the professionals of this field) is slowly starting to lessen.
If a celebrity speaks about their mental health struggles or unfortunately, if they die by suicide, it impacts a huge number of people. In the aftermath, almost everyone on social media talks about the importance of mental health and how we should check in on our loved ones, especially during the pandemic. This dialogue is crucial, but it comes with two major negative consequences:
- It is short-lived.
- Individuals who are untrained and inexperienced open up their DMs to provide a safe space for their followers (with or without charge).
We understand the latter might be coming from good intentions, but that does not mean that it is the right step. As aspiring mental health professionals, it feels extremely wholesome to watch people who are not related to the field of psychology, advocating for mental health and trying to spread awareness regarding this topic. However, our viewpoint takes a quick 180 degree turn when we see individuals who are not qualified in the field promoting themselves and speaking about how they will provide their followers with a safe space and a listening ear. What is worse is that sometimes, they will even charge you for it!
When influencers on Instagram engage in such activities, social media becomes even more unreliable as a platform. At a time when people’s opinion on mental health professionals has just started taking a positive turn, if every other influencer starts acting like a therapist without the necessary qualifications, then it will do more harm than good for both parties. The individual who is sharing their struggles may not receive the proper response they need, and the person who is offering help, may not be equipped with the right resources to handle such a conversation, thus ending up feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility.
These instances might minimize the role of a therapist, and make them seem like individuals who are just there to listen to people rant and show them empathy from time to time. While this is one part of their job, there’s also a lot more to it.
Even if someone is willing to provide a safe and confidential listening space, that in no way means that they have the knowledge and experience to handle others’ mental health challenges. Licensed therapists have a postgraduate degree in psychology, which gives them the necessary skills to help people deal effectively with their mental health concerns. It’s always a good idea to make sure the therapist you’re planning to go to has these necessary qualifications.
Another trend that’s come up is that of toxic positivity, which is the idea of forcing positivity on someone or even on yourself, and that can be both external and internal. It refers to the idea of focusing on the positive, and dismissing negative emotions or anything that may bring negativity into your life. However, what people don’t talk about is that sometimes negative emotions can actually lead to positive growth. Motivational accounts on Instagram and Twitter have the right idea; they are doing what they can to spread encouragement and positivity to those who may be struggling, and to a certain extent, it could work. Encouraging as they may be, these accounts can unconsciously lead people to engage in what is called “toxic positivity.”
People might like a post because they find it relatable, or they agree with it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it brought them the peace they were looking for. Feelings don’t always have to be good or bad, they can be ever changing. What matters is how we cope with them. Therefore, staying positive all the time isn’t a long-term solution, nor is it sustainable. It is essential for a person to get the help they need when they need it.
Researchers have found that over time, suppressing our negative feelings puts more emotional weight on ourselves than when we accept them. Failure to effectively process emotions in a timely manner can lead to a myriad of psychological difficulties, including disrupted sleep, increased substance abuse, risk of an acute stress response, prolonged grief, or even PTSD.
Nowadays, we should be aware of the impact our posts, stories, comments, reels, and messages have on our followers. Even if we have less than 100 followers on our Instagram, it becomes our responsibility to be mindful of the content we share. We become mindful of the content we share when we are mindful of the content we consume. In order to understand mental health and the work done by professionals in this field, you can follow these pages on Instagram:
We need to understand that the content on social media is not a substitute for therapy, but the information provided there can be used as a tool to aid therapy and our knowledge of mental health. It is extremely important for everyone to speak in support of mental health to keep this conversation going, but we need to ensure that we do not cross that boundary and wander off into the territory of therapy without the necessary qualifications.
Meet The Authors
Hasti has recently graduated with a degree in Psychology and is interning at TTC to gain a more experiential understanding of the field of mental health. The areas of mental health that interest her are health psychology, eating disorders and trauma. Apart from this, her favorite way to relax is to watch crime-thrillers, read fictional and Victorian novels or go for a run.
Hasti Sabhani, Intern