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Opinion: can democratization of information be dangerous for mental health?

The tools to treat mental health have increased considerably in recent years, but not all of them are optimal for everyone .

Man touching his head

The democratization of mental health information is not always professional. / Photo: Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: Opinión: ¿Democratización de información puede ser peligroso para la salud mental?

In my childhood very few times (I am almost certainly never) heard the term "mental health" . It was not until my adolescence that those two words began to take shape and, unfortunately, they were accompanied by a pejorative meaning, because in my Christian family, mental health had no value if there was not a spiritual life. In Colombia, a highly Catholic and Christian country (according to the Pew Research Center, 92.3% of the Colombian population belongs to these religions ), talking about mental health was inconceivable a few years ago. It was not until the boom of social media, that this issue began to be treated in a more natural way.

Although there are still people who are afraid to accept that mental illnesses exist, the content that is created around it is broader, but unfortunately (and because of the democratization of information), that content is not always professional . Many people, based on their personal experiences, decide to advise others and give them tools so that they can improve their well-being. This can be done with good intentions, but do not forget that, like physical health, mental health must be treated by professionals.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Sure, there are ways in which we can increase our well-being that should not be taught by experts. For example, a study carried out by Dr. Sara Lazard of Harvard University, showed that after eight weeks of daily meditation, physical changes can be seen in some areas of the brain: those that are associated with learning and memory grow, while that those associated with anxiety and depression are reduced . Thus, tools such as meditation can help to achieve greater physical and psychological well-being.

But although these types of tools are very useful, when a person suffers from a mental illness, they are usually accompanied by psycho-therapies and even, if necessary, medications. That is why we cannot find the answer to what may be happening to us mentally or emotionally in an Instagram post , as well as it is unlikely to solve it by going to comply with routines and consume certain products as recommended by an influencer or a person who speaks from your own experience, but don't have the professional tools to help.

It may also interest you: What is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy?

This does not imply stopping sharing those experiences, or not creating spaces and support networks where people can talk openly about mental health, its diseases, causes and consequences. What it implies is that, now that there is a high interest in health, it is more important than ever to treat the subject with tweezers and to be extremely careful when recommending and indicating, as well as when asking for recommendations and treatments.

In a way, it could be seeing like this: if you think you have diabetes, you are not going to ask a friend of yours who also has sugar problems what he would prescribe for you, you will surely go to a specialized doctor so he/she can give you an order and instructions. Also if you think you have depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder, it is best to go to a professional. The people around you can guide you to find the right professional to accompany you in your process.

Regarding the information that we find in social networks, it is very important to make sure that we follow accounts, pages or channels that are creating content made by experts or professionals, which although they can give advice, these will be general and not specific, and they will always invite to consult an expert.

Now that the existence of mental illness and the need to work on your mental health are finally being recognized, it should not be taken for granted and treated as we would treat any other part of our body.