Posting about depression on FB might not help college students: study
New York: College students who post about their feelings of depression on Facebook may not be encouraged by their friends to seek support from a mental health professional, according to a new study.
In the study, published in the journal JMIR Research Protocols, none of the 33 participating students said their friends helped them reach out to a mental health professional to talk about their problems. The researchers, including those from The Ohio State University in the US, said most friends of the study participants simply sent messages that were motivating or supportive instead. As part of the study, the 33 students reported what type of article they created their friends responded, and also completed a measure of melancholy.
Almost half of the participants reported symptoms that were consistent with moderate or severe depression. About a third of them indicated they had experienced suicidal thoughts several days.
The participants’ Facebook posts were mostly of two themes. They were either negative emotions like”I just said I felt so lonely” one student wrote or about having a bad day,”Terrible day. Things could not get any worse” another participant submitted.
These two themes appeared in about 45 percent of the articles the researchers said. Only one of the students directly asked for assistance, and only three mentioned”depression” or related words, the study said.
While most of the students did not use words such as”depression” in their Facebook articles, many found ways to hint at their psychological conditions without being explicit. Sad song lyrics were used by fifteen percent of the participants, five percent used an emoji, and another 5 percent used quoted to express their miserable states.
“It may be because of the stigma around mental illness. Or maybe they did not know that their symptoms indicated that they were miserable,” said Scottye Cash, lead author of the study from The Ohio State University.
According to the researchers, the most common responses from the participants’ friends — about 35 percent of Facebook post answers — were supportive gestures.
“All my close friends were there to encourage me, and letting me know that everything will be okay,” one study participant said.
Coming second, the most common response 19 percent of articles asked what was wrong. The participants said such responses weren’t always taken by them favorably. “It is difficult to tell who cares or who’s just curious this way, though,” one participant wrote.
“For the buddies reading these posts, they often have to read between the lines since few people came out and said they were miserable,” Cash said. According to the researchers, many people used quotations and song lyrics about how they are feeling, to talk, so their friends had to decide what they were saying.
She said the findings point to the need for more mental health literacy among college students so that they know how to respond and can recognize signs of depression. “Both Facebook and colleges and universities could do more to provide these pupils information about resources, mental health care, and how to recognize the signs of depression and anxiety,” she said.