TikTok is good for community support, not diagnosing mental health

The trend of youth relying on TikTok for health guidance has researchers concerned

TikTok users are attempting to diagnose their own mental health conditions based on some video content on the app. (Keet Kailey)

TikTok users are attempting to diagnose their own mental health conditions based on some video content on the app. (Keet Kailey)

Mental health concerns are something many people in the world deal with, and they are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it should be encouraged to speak out about your experiences and reach out for professional help if you feel it’s necessary.

This is a topic that has become more acceptable to discuss openly and is something that has taken over conversations on various social media platforms. Finding support is key for addressing mental health experiences, and people are finding that social media is the place for things like this, a place for resources to be shared and like-minded people to connect with one another to create a community. 

For the past couple years, TikTok has been an increasingly popular place where this trend is taking hold. More people are finding themselves going to this social media platform to find a community to share concerns or experiences, and in turn there are many who have decided to record videos of themselves giving many medical tips and advice on mental health diagnoses.

According to a Walrus article written by Emily Baron Cardlof, some unqualified TikTok users are attempting to diagnose mental health conditions like anxiety or depression on their own. 

One video claimed that behaviour like “unnecessary apologizing” was a “symptom of latent anxiety” which was expressed all while the creator smiled and danced in front of the camera to synchronized music. 

This is a problem because viewers can be left wondering if there’s something they need to be concerned about if their supposed symptoms match the TikTok artist’s video, or even if they don’t. 

The majority of the performers are not medical professionals and do not possess the qualifications or standards to provide this type of information and advice. Like other social media platforms, TikTok is full of misinformation, and some of these videos have led youth and adult users of the platform to personally diagnose themselves based on messages that could be far from the truth. 

While these trends seem to have brought a new era to the world where the youth are becoming more open about their mental health experiences and concerns, it is also an issue moving forward if they only get their information from social media. 

An article published in Scientific American recently analyzed the accuracy of pediatric medical information offered online, and of 1,300 websites explored through Google searches, only 43.5 per cent of the sites contained recommendations that were in line with fact-based medical recommendations. The article goes on to say that  “28.1% contained inaccurate information and 28.4% of the websites were not medically relevant.” 

Social media accounts are not subject to proper medical scrutiny, and their vast audiences of youth can be convinced and persuaded by influential people on these platforms. In these cases, they may not have access to medical information reviewed by professionals, which can be dangerous and confusing.

This could cause a greater spiral of varying emotions and anxieties that people likely wouldn’t experience otherwise, especially when social media algorithms have this kind of funnelling effect. 

This trend could create more issues and challenges than benefits when it comes to the ways people view themselves and their wellbeing.

Community support is irreplaceable. If people feel that social media is a place to find others who will listen to their problems and relate to them, that is great, but this should not be a substitute for professional diagnosis or counselling.