The link between mental health and social media

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Mitchell Lienemann

College can be an especially stressful time in the lives of many. For some, it may be the first time moving away from their parents, balancing school, working multiple jobs and trying to take care of themselves.

The National Institute of Mental Health warns on its website that depression rates peak around ages 20-24.

That means that across college campuses everywhere, students are struggling to stay in control of their own mental health.

A recent study found that 30 percent of college students claimed to be “so stressed that it was becoming hard to function.” This alarming statistic could very well be a result of social media usage.

Social Media and Depression

In an article published online in Computers in Human Behavior, titled “Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among U.S. young adults”, researchers found a link between extended time on social media and experiencing negative mental health outcomes.

They conducted a study on 1,787 young adults where they tracked the number of social media platforms that they use on a daily basis. Analysis showed that people who used between 7-11 different platforms had “more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety” than those who use 0-2 social media platforms

Associate professor at UNO Adam Tyma has spent years studying social media and the effects that it can have on a person. He says that the thing about social media is that “we start developing our expectation based upon what’s represented to us versus what’s actually happening in the real world.”

This alarming relationship between social media and depression is a frightening reality that many campus counselors and other professionals desperately want students to be aware of.

The reason that it is so important to get help if one experiences thoughts of depression is because the disease couples with other risky behaviors. A study found that people suffering from depression are also much more likely to…

  • Abuse drugs and alcohol
  • Fail academically
  • Become violent
  • Develop eating disorders
  • Engage in risky sexual practices
  • Self-Harm


College Students and Suicide

There are many different types of depression and when left unchecked, result in nearly seven percent of college students claiming that they have considered suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students, according to an article published in the Psychiatric Times titled “Perspectives on College Student Suicide.”

Nate Bock, assistant director of counseling and psychological services at UNO says that there is an alarming trend among college suicide victims.

He says, “The mass majority of people who complete suicide who are college students never step foot into a college counseling center.”

This begs the question of whether students are avoiding seeking the help that they need due to the pressure of having a normal life that social media can put on them.

Bock says that the actual number of students reaching out for professional help has actually increased during his time at UNO. This is an encouraging trend that is hopefully happening on campuses across the country.

Counselors and therapists are urging students to become educated about some of the scary facts surrounding suicide.

One startling stat is that men commit suicide at twice the rate of women, but women are four times more likely to attempt suicide. Many professionals say that people often will give hints (subtle or not) that they are contemplating hurting themselves.

Some of the ways that students can attempt to combat their own mental health without talking to a therapist would include…

  • Exercise
  • Eating healthy
  • Developing a sleep schedule
  • Abstaining from or limiting drug and alcohol use

Get Help

UNO counselors and psychological services are challenging students across the country to address the touchy subject of depression and suicide on college campuses. Professionals are urging college students to utilize the free and low cost mental health services that all campuses provide.

To contact a counselor and schedule an appointment to talk in person or over the phone, call 402-554-2539.

If you or anyone you know is depressed and contemplating suicide, please refer them to the suicide prevention hotline, which is 1-800-273-TALK.

Article updated on March 19.