Using Social Media to Treat Depression

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Using Social Media to Treat Depression

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

I’m at it again! #cantstopwontstop

Back to talk about that strangely familiar topic of the connection between the ever present and expanding dominion of social media and depression. It may seem like these articles sometimes present conflicting opinions, and often times those thin lines between healthy and disparaging get skewed.

Let me be clear: social media is an incredible and vibrant format through which we experience things through the testimonies of others (be they true or just false advertising). We as individuals turn it into either an overwhelming obsession or tools for triumph in how we use social media.

Somebody out there is actually saying now that they have designed a way by which we can actually treat depression with social media. And strange enough what they describe actually uses some of the same elements that are credited with contributing to depression and puts just the right spin on it to be clinically advantageous.

The Power of Support

Now I have talked about how some suggest that social media can be dangerous for people with depression. I have stressed before that when respected it can be a beautiful and powerful thing, and when abuse it can become like an all-encompassing adversity. Social media has contributed to vast isolation and loneliness, which multiplied over ‘like’s and ‘share’s (or lack thereof) make a formula for depression. BUT it has also done its part in striking stigma out of some more serious connections to depression such as suicide or suicidal thoughts.

In one study researchers discovered while monitoring college students on social media who had made clear indications about experiencing depression that the most responses they received from their peers were expressions of sympathy and support. Many were met with compassion and stories of similar struggles that lead them away from those feelings of isolation, and researchers concluded that social media was helping to spread the understand about mental health and depression more than ever.

Panoply: New World Therapy

Based on this very same concept of peers supporting and nurturing each other with compassion, there is now a new mental health therapy through social media emerging that has so far yielded optimistically positive results.

A study of 166 people over a 3 week period using peer-to-peer social networking birthed a platform that developers are currently calling “Panoply”. So far the studies show that this new take on social media shaped significant benefits, particularly for depressed individuals.

Panoply uses self-guided, web-based interventions for depression that are focused on trying to calm anxiety and reverse the symptoms of depression. For the initial study participants posted descriptions of stressful thoughts and situations on the social media platform, and then the “crowd” replied to the post by offering contrasting outlooks or words of encouragement.

The platform is employing a practice that is called “cognitive appraisal”. This is a therapeutic tool used to inspire people to look at a problem from different perspectives. By seeing the situation beyond their immediate feelings someone can even identify what is making them feel that way, and take action to curb that feeling.

Using Panoply also allows people to practice objectively reviewing stressful situations submitted by other users. This also inspires them later to think more flexibly and objectively about the stressful events and thoughts that they themselves experience, teaching them how to cope and to relate to others. According to a paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research this feature proved to be especially helpful for individuals struggling with depression.

The next step is to test Panoply with a larger, more diverse audience. The researchers hope to repeat these results, and also to collect data concerning what any long term effects of this kind of treatment may be.

It seems that these researchers have attempted to treat depression and social media like any vaccine; use a strain of the sickness against itself to create an active acquired immunity. So while there are still concerns about obsessive social media compulsions and depression, by using the act of sharing and networking Panoply hopes to combat the feelings of isolation and despair with a sense of community and personal connection social media is meant to create.

So don’t delete your account just yet, give it another shot. Please post responsibly.

Depression is a very severe and sometimes subtle affliction. It can be manic and unpredictable, chronic and progressive, or sometimes it can almost seem comfortable. It is possible to escape the grips of depression, and it can be as simple as putting the right people in your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135