Addiction, Depression and Social Media?

Addiction, Depression and Social Media?

By: Michelle Lamar
October 14, 2010

People talk about “living life online” but even on the world wide web—there are still secrets.  Human beings may have all the new tools and gadgets but many of the old hangups are alive and well.

Addiction is still a topic that it is hard to find conversations about online.  It makes sense.  Most people want to put their best foot forward on Twitter, Facebook and Linked In.

Even in 2010, there’s still a stigma attached to addiction, depression and mental health issues.  Even in a Web 2.0 world, it makes people squirm to openly talk about drug problems or alcoholism. It’s not a crowd pleaser if you tweet:

My sister has a pain-killer addiction! Know any rehabs in the Tri-State area?

One of our clients here at V3 Worldwide is Challenges, a drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility in Fort Lauderdale Florida.  Working with the amazing team at Challenges is interesting and eye-opening in many ways.

But developing a marketing and social media strategy for Challenges has shown our team that many of the old stigmas still remain about addiction and mental health issues.

For example, it’s a fact that addiction and mental illness are both brain diseases. A person vulnerable to one type of brain disease (addiction) may also be vulnerable to another. They involve the same pathways, molecules, and chemicals in the brain and Mental illness and drug addiction often occur together.

Some people begin abusing drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication for other  problems such as depression or bipolar disorder and other issues. Drugs of abuse may temporarily relieve some of the symptoms associated with mental illness, such as stress, anxiety, social inhibitions or depression.

But in our research for this client and as we monitor this topic online, I am stunned by the number of people who still think addicts could quit “if they wanted to” and look at mental health problems as character flaws.

As society uses new technology to communicate,  human behavior needs to catch up to the technology so more people will get help.

  • I can definitely relate to this. I have a blog and

  • I can definitely relate to this. I blog about my struggles with depression and I am always afraid of receiving comments from internet trolls saying something mean. I have seen the negative and, most of all, ignorant stigmas placed on people with mental illnesses. I live it every single day. I can't tell you how many times people have said, “Snap out of it” or “Get over it.” But if my blog/tweets can help just ONE person out there then I'll keep writing because it's worth it to me.

  • Stacey

    These are tough topics for most people to talk about, whether they are in the throws of addiction or denying someone else's. It's not surprising that people aren't so candid about their struggles because they would open themselves up to possible criticism, which can be hurtful in many ways. If people are truly seeking help, I think they're more likely to make a phone call or try to be anonymous online. Interesting post. Thanks.

  • Same here…its refreshing to find people who want to talk about depression and anxiety and all the other taboo mental things people have going on. There's enough of us out there to be pretty powerful as a group, but its one of those things people like to keep under the rug.

    In fact, social media and the internet HELPS people with depression and anxiety and such because many of us have trouble in social situations…but being able to sit down and type can make one feel more at ease and give them the ability to have a conversation in general, let alone share things about themselves.

  • Definitely interesting and I agree with Molly. I have blogged about my struggles with depression and you just never know how people will react. But like Molly, I continue to write about it because I hope I can help someone by sharing my personal experiences….

    I also agree that social media can help people with their issues. I've found such a community on Twitter and in BlogLand…it's amazing the support I have received from people I've never even met!

  • I think a lot of people are either ignorant of what addiction, depression, etc is really about or they react in negative ways because they are too scared to admit their own issues… and EVERYONE has some issue(s)… 🙂

    One of the biggest pet peeves of mine is hearing people say “snap out of it” – whatever it is… I want to scream at them… “If they COULD snap out of it, don't you think they WOULD?” and I have a few times… but mostly, I know it does no good…

    So right now, as you read this… do NOT think about sitting on the beach, with the breeze blowing by, listening to the waves, with your feet in the sand… (you were totally wiggling your toes weren't you??) LOL

  • All so true. Thank you for raising the topic here!
    What I have found works well is to talk in public (and therefore social media) about the subjects of mental illness and addiction in a positive. Talk about the hope, the solutoins, the recovery. Then when people contact me one on one we can talk about the harsher realities.

  • Absolutely Molly, I agree! If we can help even one person, it's worth putting our knowledge out there!

  • That is so true Mark! I found Twitter at a time when I was depressed for personal and economic reasons and the friends I made on Social Media supported me in completely turning my life around. As a result of which my life improved locally as well and I made more friends here.

  • Yes, same here Erin. The people I met on Twitter have been true, open minded and open hearted friends.

  • Not just criticism. What we put out on the web never goes away and could be damaging later on when looking for jobs etc.

  • Joe Slaughter

    I have friends on Facebook who won’t mention issues in their family except by private message. They have gradually noticed from the things I say that I understand addiction-recovery, but in the open info exchange, it’s a part of their life that remains quiet. And, I know that several of them have felt very supported by the private messages.

  • Really interesting post. Now that I think about it, I don’t see conversations around alcoholism or drug addiction online. I do see threads around health, fitness, eating disorders and other things. There is still quite a stigma with the former, and for those in a 12-step community, anonymity is a cherished principle. That said, there is so much support online for various “issues” – so I’m guessing it would be true for the “addiction” circles too. I bet there are some “protected” circles out there where these conversations are happening. I’m going to check out your client – I’m very curious as to what you’re doing with them. Thanks again ~