Real Life vs. Online Life: How Social Media Is Hiding Depression

May is mental health month, and building awareness is the key to helping those suffering from mental health disorders. Are you aware of how difficult it is to spot those suffering from mental health disorders? It is likely that you may have heard about the beautiful and popular University of Pennsylvania track star, Madison Holleran, who tragically took her own life last year. She exhibited no warning signs of depression or suicidal thoughts. According to friends and family, she seemed happy, and her social media accounts corroborated this. Sadly, her social media posts created a false sense of well being. With so much focus on social media, we become so concerned with how our lives appear online. But what happens when our online lives are a lie? With a little help from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, we are able to create an identity that we want to put out to the world. We are able to decide how our friends, family, and even strangers, see us. The power to decide what to post online bears with it the risk of creating a false persona that casts a shadow over reality.

Think about the thoughts that go through your head when you're about to post an Instagram picture, most likely they are along the lines of “do I look skinny and tan in this?" or “wow look how fun", etc. But as much as we want to share the highlights of our lives, it can be easy to assume that other people are truly as happy as they seem on their Instagram account. In fact, this is simply a highlight reel, a falsified life, that includes only their best moments, which have been filtered and edited. As much as we are aware that some people don't look the same in real life, try not to forget that they might not feel the same in real life as well.

Mental health disorders, especially among young adults, still carry a strong stigma that can often prevent people from admitting they need help and getting it. If gone untreated, they have the potential to end in tragedy, not to mention making day to day life near impossible. While many initiatives have been taken to raise awareness about mental health, many still believe that it doesn't affect them. While you yourself might not be suffering, don't be too quick to assume that those around you are as happy and carefree as they might seem on social media. If something seems off with one of your friends, don't brush it off. They may need help but are too scared to ask for it. Many people keep their suffering hidden and even a little glimpse you might see could be a sign that they need help.

Though the awareness has been raised, the prevalence of people with mental health disorders is becoming alarmingly more common, especially among young adults in college. According to a survey of advisors from the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, 41.6 percent of college students claimed anxiety as a concern, followed by 36.4 percent saying depression, and 35.8 percent with relationship problems. Unfortunately, 19 percent of directors reported the availability of psychiatric services on their campus inadequate. These statistics make for a terrifying reality in which the rate of mental health disorders is increasing rapidly, a pace in which help resources on campuses are not keeping up with.

What can you do? Don't be afraid to ask for help. Whether it is for yourself, or for someone you know who might be suffering. There are resources available if only you will reach out to use them. Never assume social media is reality, and always be kind. You never know what someone is dealing with internally.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255

Tallahassee Crisis Hotline: (850) 644-8255

Tallahassee Memorial Behavioral Health Center: (850) 431-5100


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