TikTok, the trendiest new app among social media users, is well-known for its viral dances and do-it-yourself videos.
Lately, it’s also become a place for very open discussions about mental health.
Mackenzie Tabaldo, better known to her more than 680,000 TikTok followers as “meowkenzie,” is very familiar with this side of the app. While Tabaldo’s feed contains makeup tutorials and clothing hauls, much of her content is dedicated to shedding light on mental illness.
“The benefit of talking about mental health on social media is letting people know that the things they struggle with aren’t just unique to them,” Tabaldo said. “If I can help people identify things that they go through, and encourage them to get help about things they can’t necessarily identify alone, that can really help people get the mental health care that they need.”
Tabaldo has also personally benefited from the open discussion taking place on social media about mental health. Before becoming active on TikTok, Tabaldo had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and somatic symptom disorder.
However, after seeing content on TikTok about living with obsessive compulsive disorder, Tabaldo felt that she could relate to much of the information shared. After an in-depth discussion with her therapist, Tabaldo was also diagnosed with OCD.
Influencers are not the only TikTok users involved in this trend. A rising number of therapists, psychologists and counselors are also using the social media platform to spread information about mental health and mental illness.
Justin Puder is a therapist and licensed psychologist who shares mental health advice with about 180,000 followers through his TikTok account, “amoderntherapist.”
According to Puder, discussing mental health on social media is an important step toward normalizing struggles with mental illness.
“TikTok has a very open community where discussions about mental health flow easily and help to break stigma,” Puder said. “We need people out there sharing their story and being vulnerable about their mental health. There is no way we will progress as a society if this falls only on mental health professionals.”
TikTok has created a community and a source of general information for those with mental illnesses.
However, it is important to avoid using the app as a tool to self-diagnose a possible mental illness, according to Amanda Trama, a clinical counselor with Long Beach State’s Counseling and Psychological Services. Trama said reaching out to a professional is the best way to receive help in a time of need.
Trama said that CAPS is a great, free resource for any CSULB student in need of mental health care. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, CAPS is currently offering virtual appointments with their staff of licensed mental health professionals.
“It is important to reach out for professional help because these individuals have been trained to identify, explore and treat certain aspects of mental health that others may not be aware of,” Trama said. “Using friends, family, social media and other forms of support are excellent ways of coping, but are not advised to replace professional therapeutic support.”