The presence of mental health content on social media platforms has been arising in the past years. The reason for this is that younger generations are becoming interested in and in need of such topics. At the same time, mental health issues and disorders are becoming more prevalent because of a variety of factors related to social and economic cues. When it comes to mental health prevention, support and accessibility, several barriers limit people from learning more about their own mental state and finding an adequate environment. The barriers regard pricing, long waiting lists and stigma mainly. However, thanks to social media platforms, mental health professionals have been able to build communities for all those individuals seeking for health information out of curiosity, necessity, or support. Consequentially, social media have become a point of connection between individuals and professionals of the field. Nevertheless, such field is still limited by significant ethical and legal boundaries due to the sensitivity that surrounds the practice. Having ethical and legal boundaries constrains experts from providing certain kind of offers on social media, primarily therapy. Nonetheless, individuals still appear to have found a great support and source of knowledge thanks to the words shared by mental health practitioners. Two research questions have been developed to study both groups of this scenario: “How do university students in the Netherlands interpret and make use of Instagram content created by mental health professionals?” and “How do mental health professionals perceive and engage with Instagram as platform for their profession?”. To answer the questions, the researcher decided to conduct a total of fifteen in depth interviews, ten with regular users engaging with mental health content and five with mental health professionals active on Instagram. The data was then analyzed through thematic analysis. The main findings showed how Instagram has created an ideal place for the two groups to meet. Regular users believed to have found reliable and extensive information and tips though the content provided. Meanwhile, professionals saw in social networks an effective way to launch their personal brand, fight stigma, and create accessibility. The main limitation encountered was the difficulty for professionals in convincing readers that the content is not therapy, and the language used is fundamental to provide nuances and prevent from misdiagnosis and misinterpretation. Overall, the arising presence of mental health content on social networks will bring more benefits than disadvantages, if individuals are able to be accountable for what and how they consume the content. A way to do so would be for professionals explicitly stating how to approach the content and which kind of content to rely on. On the other side, considering the business reality, the benefits and possibilities for experts are many. However, it is still important for them to act in an ethical and legal friendly way when it comes to sensible topics and discourses.

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Hester Hockin Boyers
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Francesca Capozzo. (2023, February 3). Mental health content on Instagram: An exploration of professional and consumer perspectives. Media & Business. Retrieved from