How to Counter Social Media Mental Health Misinformation

Feb 8, 2023

Therapist doing online therapy Telehealth

Nowadays, what is trending on social media dictates how we think, dress, look, and behave. So, in the era of information overload, it doesn’t come as a surprise that mental health has found its way to our social media platforms.

There is a tidal wave of mental health influencers and wellness coaches online. Improving your mental and emotional well-being may seem just a click or two away.

Along with an increase in licensed therapists online, the explosion of virtual mental health services during the pandemic has brought an array of influencer coaches – for health and wellness, fitness, life, business, career, dating, divorcing – you name it.

Even though influencers may help normalize different mental health experiences and remove the stigma of mental illness, the risks of spreading false information about mental health on social media may be greater than the benefits.

How to Recognize Misleading Mental Health Information

More conversations about mental health can help bring more attention to mental illness and fight the stigma attached to it. However, with so many mental health resources popping up in our newsfeeds, it’s easy to get caught up in the content without evaluating the validity and foundation of the advice we’ve been given.

The Distinction Between Raising Awareness and Providing Guidance

There is nothing wrong with using one’s experience to raise awareness about mental illness. If you don’t have access to professional mental health services, mental health posts on TikTok and Instagram may provide support and inspire you to make a positive change.

There is a big difference, though, between sharing inspiring mental health quotes and giving advice that is not backed up by qualifications and professional experience.

Avoid Influences who Diagnose and Prescribe Uniform Solutions

Because the same mental illness can manifest differently in different people and the same therapy may not work for everyone, there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to mental health.

Check for Credentials

Licensed psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, and social workers are more likely to give accurate mental health information, so check the content creator’s bio for their qualifications. Avoid mental health influencers that offer medical advice and refer to themselves as “experts” while providing no information about their training and qualifications.

Be Cautious About Licensed vs. Unlicensed Life Coaching

While a wealth of helpful material is available online, much of it is misleading because of the prevalence of unqualified “influencers” in the mental health field. There is nothing wrong with someone talking about mental illness as long as they are transparent about their qualifications, or lack thereof.

So, seek a board-certified life coach who is licensed to practice. In addition, a qualified life coach must have particular training and certification from the International Coach Federation (ICF).

Do Not Diagnose Yourself

The explosion of mental health influencers during the pandemic has aggravated the issue of self-diagnosis. Many people either have no access to or cannot afford mental health treatment. As a result, internet platforms are the only mental health resource available for many, which raises serious concerns about self-diagnosis and self-medicating.

In addition, seeking medical advice online from untrustful sources may have several adverse effects. For example, you might get the wrong treatment, ignore a mental illness because its symptoms look like something else, worry about something you don’t even have, and so on.

Social Media Cannot Replace Treatment from a Therapist

Individualized psychotherapy is the only appropriate care you should seek if you are suffering from mental health issues.

So, avoid resorting to social media content offered by mental health influencers as a substitute for therapy. Getting the wrong advice or treatment can be extremely harmful if you struggle with mental health issues.

Furthermore, a client-therapist relationship is a vital part of psychotherapy that cannot be provided through social media coaching. A therapeutic relationship entails close interaction between a therapist and a client, which is critical since it establishes the foundation for all counseling work and success.

Psychotherapy can be a safe place to identify your problems, resolve past issues, work through painful emotions, develop positive coping strategies, and more.

Only licensed therapists can determine and diagnose illnesses and pathologies, allowing you to receive the best clinical care.

In conclusion, while the presence of mental health influencers contributes to an open conversation about mental illnesses and helps challenge mental health stigma, advice for mental health issues that lacks expertise and credibility can have adverse effects.

It’s essential to be aware of false information about mental health on social media because you should only seek help from qualified mental health professionals for your mental health concerns. You can do more to protect your mental health and well-being if you are aware of the harmful effects of misleading information.

As a marriage and family therapist and clinical sexologist, I specialize in intimacy issues. Also, I help couples that are dealing with communication issues, conflict, falling out of love, or infidelity. Let’s connect soon so we can set up a consultation.

Filippo M. Forni, LMFT is a sex and couples therapist in Los Angeles, CA. His goal is to provide high-quality and effective goal-oriented sex and couples psychotherapy to the Los Angeles and Century City community. He has extensive training in sexuality and multiculturalism and serves as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology.