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What To Do When Your Friend Posts About A Depressive Episode Online

One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives.

We've become wholly attuned to sharing all of ourselves online.  

Ranging from birthdays and pregnancy announcements to deaths and innermost feelings – there will always be someone who prefers the medium of social media over meeting someone face-to-face to share news. 

This is likely as a result of our newly fast-paced lives, which don't correlate with the bated breath of personal meetings and the wholly considered moments of one-on-ones. 

When life takes a swing at you and you post about it online, you will often receive immediate validation by way of heart emojis and kind DMs. 

Although, if someone pens a post about a chronic depressive episode in order to desperately cry for help –– is this enough?

These supportive messages, though, don't necessarily translate into real-life help when you post about depression on social media.

According to a recent article published by Ohio State News, support in these situations is fraught, with most people shying away from providing help as a result of not being entirely certain what depression entails.

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Providing effective help to your friends can be tricky, especially when mental health stigma drives people to not to share their experiences with depression, or do so in indirect ways.

According to a recent study published in the journal JMIR Research Protocols, when college students post about their depression on Facebook, about 35% of responses offered a gesture, like assurances that everything will be alright.

Another 19% asked the poster what was wrong, a response that posters found distinctly unhelpful because it made them feel they weren't being heard or understood.

This data raises the question: how do you help when someone's posting about their mental health?

According to a recent report by Crisis Text Line on the state of mental health in the United States, stigma presents one of the largest barriers to people wanting to reach out for support.

The report found that people would often try to signal a mental health crisis in Crisis Text Line conversations with a crying face or pill emoji, rather than saying "suicide" directly.

The JMIR Research Protocols study drew similar conclusions as the Crisis Text Line report, finding that 15% of people posting about feeling depressed on social media do so through song lyrics, while another 10% communicate their depression through quotes or emojis.

Because of how indirect this kind of language was, the study found, people's Facebook friends often didn't encourage them to get help — because they couldn't tell what the poster's subtext was.

If you're unsure what else to do for your friend, it is always okay to ask.

In fact, it's important. If you ask, instead of waiting for them to come to you, it gives the person permission to say, 'Yeah, I am hurting and I need support.'"

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, there is help available: 

  • Samaritans – 116 123  – [email protected] or [email protected]
  • Pieta House – 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444
  • Aware -  1800 80 48 48 
  • Childline – 1800 66 66 66 or free text 50101

Main image by @marianne_theodorsen on Instagram

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