This year has been a tough year for us all, and especially so for those people who are struggling with mental health issues. The physical distancing, self-isolating and lockdowns that the 'new normal' has brought in its wake have hindered the functioning of support networks and increased the isolation of some of society's most fragile and at-risk members.
At first glance, social media might not seem the most obvious place to turn in search of support, as there's a good chance you'll be bombarded with exactly the kind of bad or stressful news which can negatively impact your state of mind. And thanks to its vocation for promoting the obsessively curated and impossibly glamorous lifestyles of the influencers who are among its most popular accounts, Instagram in particular has often been accused of adding to societal pressures and hence enjoys a less than stellar reputation when it comes to mental health.
That might be changing, though, because as well as the bling and glitz, Instagram is also increasingly home to thriving communities of accounts dedicated to providing nuanced, accurate information and support in ways which are easy to understand and to digest for those who are struggling.
Covering everything from conditions like social anxiety, eating disorders, depression and PTSD to addiction and post-natal depression, these Instagram accounts attempt to break the wall of silence that so often hinders open, productive discussion of mental health, tackling stigmas, breaking down stereotypes and offering up small but potent doses of reassurance as well as vital resources that can help mental health sufferers feel less alone and more empowered to deal with their difficulties.
The mental health accounts to be found on Instagram cover every conceivable topic and approach, ranging from things like 'thelatestkate' which offers up heartwarming cutesy pictures accompanied by life-affirming messages, through Italian illustrator Laura Jane's 'Hello Happee', which explores mental health topics and the unrealistic expectations social media creates, to psychologist Dr. Joy Harden Bradford's 'Therapy for Black Girls', which provides accessible mental health resources for black women and works to destigmatise mental-health issues, to Dr. Vassilia Binensztok's 'Juno Counseling', where the childhood maltreatment expert offers a safe space for people to share issues that are bothering them and reclaim their personal power.
Though some accounts are light-hearted and others serious, they all share a desire to use Instagram as a platform for connecting with others and offering them support.
Obviously, no Instagram account ever can or should take the place of therapy, and that's not what the mental health advocates working through the site set out to do. But the discussions that they foster and the encouragement, information and resources they provide can help individuals embark on or continue along their own journey towards better mental health, and that in itself is something to be applauded.