By Sarah Day
With society glued to their smartphone devices, constantly scrolling social media pages, alternating from app to app, it seems logical to use this to our advantage to assist mental and physical health.
“Instead of condemning technology of hindering well-being, we should discuss its positive potential,” Tommy Harden, To Write Love On Her Arms contributor said.
On board with the idea, Instagram recently installed a recent feature which allows users to anonymously flag a photo when they think someone needs help.
Once a photo is flagged, the user will receive a message: “Someone saw ones of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.”
“A loved one reaching out during a time of distress can make a huge difference,” Harden said.
Most hashtags associated with self-harm are banned, but the few that still exist provide additional support options.
“Though many social media platforms allow people to connect, they can also create feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem,” Harden said. An individual suffering with depression or anxiety can be easily overlooked. Likewise, approaching a member of a social group can be tricky, if they want to avoid ridicule.
“We hope that these tools will serve as reminder that the community cares about you, and wants to help,” Instagram’s Chief Operating Officer, Marne Levine, told Seventeen.
There are also programs that target depression and phobias at your fingertips. Smartphones provide several apps which take the user through guided self-help cognitive behavioral therapy scenarios.
For instance, researcher David Haniff says that serious computer games that aim to teach could be designed to uplift mood and help users understand what is triggering their depression, or anxiety.
As a kind of telemedicine another computer game, SPARX, has been proven just as effective as face-to-face therapy. Available only in New Zealand, it uses a fantasy game format with avatars to take on challenge.s Other options are online chats in family therapy to ensure that each person has their chance to contribute to the session.
Conditions such as social anxiety can stop an individual from getting the treatment they need in the first place. Telemedicine can be useful as an appointment reminder, improving attendance and reducing drop-out rates.
Technology can also be used to educate and increase access to low-intensity mental health services such as chat rooms, blogs, and information about mental health issues in general.
“By improving social media networks, people may be less likely to need professional help, reducing the burden on over overextended services,” Nandine Page, Teaching Fellow at University of Surrey.