HomeNews & EventsPublicationsMind Matters - Winter 2021Keeping Up with Social Media as a Psychiatrist

Keeping Up with Social Media as a Psychiatrist

Electronic Winter 2021  |  Issue 49

Communication Committee
Keeping Up with Social Media as a Psychiatrist
By:  Leah Beth VanBlaricum, MS4, University of Illinois College of Medicine – Peoria  and
Christina Girgis, M.D., Chair, Communications Committee of Illinois Psychiatric Society, Psychiatry Network Founder

For many psychiatrists, psychiatry residents, and medical students interested in going into psychiatry, social media has become extremely prevalent and important as we have progressed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the pandemic has moved along, but not gone away and continues to impact how we interact with one another personally and professionally. We think about how to communicate and network with our peers, our patients, and the public, especially in a virtual setting.
Psychiatrists and psychiatry residents have been networking in closed physician Facebook groups like Psychiatry Network for years now, and everyone knows about Twitter! But TikTok, and Clubhouse, are new social media platforms where both professionals and patients are starting to increase their use! Most recently, for example on TikTok, patients have been seeing videos about Dissociative Identity Disorder, Tourette’s, and Asperger’s, and then going to their psychiatrists’ office asking if they have these diagnoses! On Clubhouse, there are psychiatrists now leading live educational chats in various rooms about mental health topics! 

Another benefit of social media has been that these platforms allow users to interact with others without the pressures of difficult in-person interaction. For patients on the schizophrenia spectrum who face impaired social functioning, it has been reported that online interactions are relatively easier for them to handle and aid in socializing.1 Therefore, social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok have been useful for preventing the isolation of people who suffer from mental health disorders and allowing them to feel normal and included.

Professionally, medical students interested in psychiatry are also using social media to their advantage. While unable to travel to residency programs for in-person interviews, students are connecting with current residents by exploring the program’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Being able to understand the social aspects of these potential programs has been important to help students feel more confident about choosing the right residency program that fits their unique social and academic needs.

Another example of social media and psychiatry intersecting is that of social media influencers using their platforms to promote mental health awareness. YouTube star and therapist Kati Morton offers tips about dealing with anxiety, advice about having difficult conversations, and insight into what to expect when seeking treatment for mental health. With over 1 million subscribers, her (and other influencers) reach and influence are not to be dismissed. Social media allows healthcare professionals to show a more human and relatable side of themselves, which allows patients to connect with them on a more personal level and view them as more than just a doctor. We need to consider whether more psychiatrists' voices should be on social media as well.

In a world as technologically advanced as ours, it is no surprise that social media is taking things by storm. While we should remain aware of the potential misuses and misinformation present on social media platforms, psychiatrists must stay apprised of the benefits and trends that stem from these apps and websites. We all need to be aware of the current trends in social media, both for us professionally as well as for our patients. If you are interested in getting involved in social media in a more professional capacity, we are currently revamping our Communications Committee and seeking interested IPS members to join the committee and participate in the coming year. Our first meeting will be in January. If you are interested, please send an email to kmalloy@ilpsych.org.
  1. Naslund, J.A., Bondre, A., Torous, J. et al. Social Media and Mental Health: Benefits, Risks, and Opportunities for Research and Practice. J. technol. Behav. sci. 5, 245–257 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41347-020-00134-x
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