TikTok videos with the hashtag #mentalhealth have accumulated more than 20 billion views. And that’s not counting #anxiety, which has almost 11 billion views, or #adhd, with close to 9 billion. That’s enough to tell that anyone can have access to videos on TikTok for mental health and benefit from them.
The short-video app may be known for trendy dances and goofy humor, but TikTok has also become a place for young people to share their mental health struggles. You can learn from therapists and find community with others facing similar challenges.
Data from the World Health Organization shows that in 2021, one in seven adolescents ages 10 to 19 struggled with mental health challenges. Hence, in this article, we will talk about how TikTok affects the viewer’s mental health.
How Can TikTok Videos on Mental Health Help You?
Here’s how TikTok videos can advantage the viewer’s mental health:
One of the main benefits of talking about mental health on TikTok is that users are exposed to people with different conditions, said Peter Wallerich-Neils.
He is known as Peter Hyphen to his more than 416,000 followers on TikTok, where he initially began posting to discuss his diagnosis with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
This helps people learn terminology, and when they find other people with their own issues, they can start a dialogue about their symptoms.
But also, Wallerich-Neils said, “It’s kind of holding a mirror up to themselves and they can realize, ‘Oh, my gosh, I didn’t realize that this is something that I thought only I dealt with’ — knowing that there could be a name for it. And ‘I am part of this community that I didn’t even know existed.’”
Those who may be feeling alone in their struggles often can find the validation they need, Wallerich-Neils said.
Like many others, he took to social media at the beginning of the pandemic to fill the void created by the lockdowns.
On TikTok, he began to analyze and share the ways that his ADHD diagnosis affected his everyday life and found that many connected with his journey.
Dr. Kojo Sarfo, a mental health nurse practitioner and psychotherapist with more than 1.9 million followers on TikTok, said the app creates spaces where those with mental health conditions can feel that they belong.
This connection is especially important for communities where mental health is rarely talked about or is even considered a taboo subject.
John Piacentini, a professor in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, said the weight of the pandemic is heavy for adolescents.
Teens and young adults have an increased need for peer interaction and a higher sensitivity to social exclusion.
Lockdowns, online learning, and social distancing mandates have disrupted their lives.
Social media, Piacentini said, has helped to fill those gaps, and TikTok has become a new coping strategy.
As our lives become more destabilized, it’s natural for us to seek out comfort and like-minded people.
For adolescents, he said, finding community and validation on the app is not only normal but necessary for their development.
How Can TikTok Videos on Mental Health Not Help You?
The information isn’t always accurate. Piacentini warns that users need to be critical of the content they’re absorbing.
“TikTok is a very effective platform to communicate with, but just be aware of what’s being communicated,” he said.
Seeing a video on TikTok that you identify with can be the first step in your mental health journey, but always do more research.
Consider each person’s expertise and understand whether someone is giving advice based on personal experience or from a clinician’s point of view.
Sarfo said that even users like him, who are medical professionals, should be fact-checked.
Is TikTok Dangerous For Your Mental Health?
“Our children are growing up in the age of social media — and many feel like they need to measure up the filtered versions of reality that they see on their screens.
We know this takes a devastating toll on children’s mental health and well-being.” said California’s Attorney General, Rob Bonta.
Some experts believe that TikTok’s algorithm can promote content related to depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, according to CBS News.
In 2021, The Wall Street Journal conducted its own investigation into the app. The journal created 100 “bot” accounts, giving them each different ages, genders, locations, and interests.
The bots were programmed to linger on videos that related to their programmed interests. These interests were never entered into the app. One bot was given an interest in sadness and depression-related videos.
Within 36 minutes of creating this bot account, the TikTok algorithm learned that the user was interested in depression-related content. Eventually, about 93% of the content on the bot “for you” page was about sadness and depression.
“Officially, the company says that shares, likes, follows and what you watch all play a role in what TikTok shows you,” said The Wall Street Journal.
“We found that TikTok only needs one of these to figure you out, how long you linger over a piece of content. Every second you hesitate or rewatch, the app is tracking you.”
Bullying is prevalent on TikTok because it is extremely easy to comment on a video, and one troll can send multiple hurtful messages within an hour (via Psychology Today).
The security and anonymity behind the screen bring out the worst in people because it validates them while hurting the other end. Mayo Clinic has reported that spending too much time on social media can affect your sleep and have unrealistic views of other people’s lives.
It leads to feeling worse about their own, leading to depression and anxiety.
TikTok makes resources available for teens and young adults struggling with self-esteem, body image, and mental health concerns.
Still, it is uncertain if people will benefit from the resources or even use them. The app in itself isn’t bad, but what we have made of it may not be good.
Having a basic understanding of what’s going on with you is important to your overall mental health, but our suggestion would be to not rely on an app to diagnose your mental condition. Hope this article helps! Stay tuned for more TikTok content.
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