“It can get really draining to have to think of so many new ideas each day,” says Divija Bhasin, 25, a Delhi-based psychologist who started putting out mental-health-related content in the early days of the pandemic.
The pandemic has brought conversations around mental health to the forefront, one deepened--in no small measure by the advent of social media and an exponential rise in users during the pandemic. As a result, social media influencers or content creators have taken centre stage in conversations about various niches online; mental health is one such conversation.
The social media community has seen an increase in the number of creators talking about mental health and the number of mental health professionals taking to social media to educate and offer help. These influencers and therapists have created safe spaces to guide and support their followers.
But how does social media affect the mental health of these mental health professionals?
In a world with a population that has more and more access to the internet every day, content creators are under constant scrutiny from everyone who engages with their content, most times unsolicited. A 2021 study by Vibely showed that 90% of content creators online are burnt out, and close to 71% of them have considered quitting social media altogether. Being a content creator requires a constant flow of creativity. In addition to having to generate fresh content all the time, content creating as a job can be very taxing too. Some of the challenges include, “getting hate, having an unstable income and also the fact that it’s a pretty isolating job,” says Bhasin, who hopes to sensitise people about mental health through the content she puts out.
Professionals who use social media to talk about mental health are often judged for disregarding the ethics of the profession. “Being a therapist on Instagram is quite stigmatized by the older practitioners within the community,” says Rhea Gandhi, 30. Gandhi is a psychotherapist from Mumbai who regularly takes to Instagram to share her thoughts and feelings about mental health and therapy.
And yes, there is also the trolling, almost inevitable with social media. A poll recently revealed that 75% of Instagram users alone had faced some form of trolling online and that 33% of them had taken a break from the app to recuperate. While regular users on social media platforms face trolling, content creators and professionals on social media, who have a much wider reach are subjected to a lot more mockery and hate. As a psychotherapist, however, Gandhi takes it in her stride. She believes that trolls are still only human. “They use the language of trolls but actually they’re all people, and they are putting a lot of their un-processed emotions on the internet,” says Gandhi.
Sometimes, however, this trolling can affect one’s self-esteem. “It’s very rare for me to get really affected but it definitely happens maybe once in a couple of months. This is usually when people question my integrity or make false assumptions based on a small snippet of my life on social media,” says Bhasin.
Like most people believe is the right thing to do, professionals tend not to engage with these comments, “but to say that it doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t affect is not true at all,” reveals Gandhi.
Overtime, the content created by these professionals has positively impacted several people and continues to do so. The content has “helped me understand my emotions, feelings, behaviour; basically overall psyche better,” says Mansi Goyal, who regularly engages with content put out by Bhasin, Gandhi and many other mental health professionals on Instagram. “The way we can create a safe space for them in return is by respecting their boundaries and treating them as people too,” says Goyal.
Ultimately, we as audiences need to be more understanding, to begin with, helping create a safe and inclusive community.