“Mental Health” may be laid out in Scrabble in this image above, but your well-being is no game to play. PHOTO COURTESY OF CANVA
Social media can be an excellent source of entertainment, creativity, education, and building connections. A prime example of this is hashtags, which attract people with similar interests, needs, and goals to a plethora of content pertaining to a topic. Ranging from comics to workout routines to fashion tips, hashtags bring forward unlimited possibilities for inspiration and discussions. Just by placing a pound sign in front of a word or phrase, one unlocks a plethora of information merely at their fingertips. What many fail to focus on, however, is the meaning behind the hashtags they use and click on.
#MentalHealthMonday is one of these topics that one may find popping up in their Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook feed. A tag of unknown origins, this phrase serves as a weekly reminder for many that taking care of oneself and others goes beyond the physical or external. Multiple mental health and suicide prevention blogs and accounts use this tag to spread helpful tips and resources online, while influencers and common internet users alike post on their story or timeline with #MentalHealthMonday for affirmations and updates on their life.
Frequently, I see this tag accompanied with posts of classmates and acquaintances getting mani-pedis, drinks at Tropical Smoothie, or hitting the gym. Keep in mind, self care is immensely important, as it not only boosts one’s mood, but also rejuvenates the body and soul and provides motivation for the remainder of the week.
However, mental health goes beyond treating yourself to an iced coffee or a shopping spree. It is crucial to not only take care of yourself, both physically, mentally, and financially – those frappuccinos at the library cafe sure do add up – but also to reflect on how you view mental health and illness as well.
Self care may seem like a treat to some, but to more than 50 million Americans, including many college students, understanding and prioritizing one’s own mental health are a form of survival. Such issues cannot wait until Monday – they are something that must come to the forefront each and every day. Mental health is a topic that is thrown around quite often, but even today, the words seem to fall on deaf ears. Struggling with depression, anxiety, Bipolar disorder, or any range of related conditions is not simply someone being “crazy” or “sad”, but a complex obstacle course that becomes more strenuous as the days go on. They can be caused by genetic, internal, or external factors, or a combination, including hormones, stress, past trauma, neglect, and yes, even seemingly tedious middle school presentation buzzwords like bullying and gossiping.
While posting about mental health on social media may help raise awareness, such actions only matter if one takes the time to reflect on its meaning. If you share a tag or a post to your Instagram story, check out the account and read their posts. Stay informed and educated on how to improve your mental health and take care of yourself, as well as how to be sensitive to others who may be struggling with their own problems.
Mental illness is often difficult to understand because it may seem invisible, especially to those who may not have a disorder or symptoms themselves. This is why it is crucial to go beyond the hashtag, to not just say you care about mental health, but to show that you care through your actions. Avoid retaliating against others who may display unusual behavior, such as panic attacks or “stimming,” or spreading rumors about them telling others such an individual is crazy and should be avoided. Such unkind words can spread quickly and affect how the person is treated, leading to further negative effects on their mental health. Instead, be kind, patient, and understanding. If you are concerned about someone, ask how they are doing and offer them support and resources if needed. Reaching out to someone really shows that they matter, more than any hashtag or retweet.
Know this however – by educating yourself on mental health and looking out for others in your life, I am not asking you to be everyone’s personal therapist, but rather to be open-minded and conscious of the tags and content you post on social media. There is nothing wrong with #MentalHealthMonday or similar tags, but if one does not follow through with the positive affirmations and desire to spread awareness, it comes off as performative and hypocritical. When someone posts about suicide prevention or mental health awarness, but then proceeds to talk poorly about their mentally struggling or neurodivergent peers, the seemingly caring attitude becomes tainted with insincerity and dirties one’s soul and mind. When you choose to remain ignorant about mental illness and related issues when their screen is turned off, any meaning behind the hashtags you post or the stories you share quickly fades away.
It costs nothing to be kind to others, look up resources, and research disorders or mental health issues you do not know much about. A hashtag may show that you are aware, but as they say, actions speak louder than words. The message goes beyond the screen, and if you carry an empathetic and open-minded attitude, you may improve your own life, and even save someone else’s.