TikTok and mental health advice: The pros and cons

With the explosion of TikTok and its overwhelming popularity among young people, some are using the social media platform for more than just watching funny videos or dances.

Clips talking about mental health have been viewed billions of times on the platform.

The LA Times published a piece in early January exploring this, writing that videos with the hashtag #mentalhealth have amassed more than 20 billion views – #anxiety and #adhd, meanwhile, get close to 11 billion and nine billion views respectively.

While seeking advice through the platform can be beneficial, some are cautioning users to be careful with the information they get and to check where it’s coming from.

CTV’s Your Morning spoke to Anna Maria Tosco on Wednesday, to ask the clinical psychologist from Montreal for her thoughts on the pros and cons of getting mental health advice through TikTok.

PROS

Tosco admits she may have turned her nose up a bit at TikTok, but ultimately decided to try it out herself.

TikTok videos are generally straightforward, to the point, musically and culturally relevant, and funny, she says, which can make it a great communications tool.

“And when you see that your videos reach thousands of people, it’s encouraging as a teacher and as a practitioner,” she said.

“And then when I get from my clients comments like, ‘Hey, I get validation from TikTok, it was comforting,’ I think there’s something here.”

That bit of relief and sense of community, or at the very least not feeling alone, can be an “amazing thing,” Tosco says, and could help people achieve the ultimate goal of not repressing their emotions.

“Too many of us do that,” she said. “Instead, with the validation they’ve found they’ll express their emotions and then seek help.”

CONS

Anyone who has tried TikTok will know how addictive it can be, with two minutes easily turning into two hours, Tosco says.

And someone who goes “down the rabbit hole” may wind up getting advice from a non-expert.

“There’s nothing wrong with a non-expert giving advice, it can be great advice,” Tosco said. “But there are dangers.”

A person could get inaccurate psychological definitions or diagnoses, Tosco explains.

As an example, she says exposure therapy – such as finding a tall building to get over a fear of heights – may work for some. But for anyone else watching that video, who may not be ready for that quite yet, Tosco says this could exacerbate a person’s symptoms.

As a psychologist, Tosco says she also has to follow an ethical code, something a non-expert may not necessarily abide by.

“So in the things that I say and the videos I put out, my demeanor, what I do, how I do it, I have to be mindful to not do harm to anybody watching,” she said.

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