Sharing mental health stories online can fuel a lack of self-worth, according to cyber safety experts.
Mental health was in the spotlight this month with RU OK? Day on September 13.
The national initiative aimed to start conversations and raise awareness about mental health challenges but experts were worried some of the conversations online could leave the most vulnerable people unsupported.
Cyber safety expert, ySafe founder and psychologist Jordan Foster was concerned people tried to get help by posting their vulnerable stories on social media.
“My concern about posting on RU OK? Day is if you’re not okay, you’re really needing to seek help and you don’t get anything back from it,” she said.
“That might solidify in your mind that no one cares.
“That risk to me, if the person is suicidal or has suicidal ideation – far outweighs the benefits.”
Social media expert and RU OK? Day ambassador Craig Mack said with new algorithms on social media apps, posts were likely to be missed by users, making the audience inconsistent and unreliable in their feedback.
He referred to this as the “dark side” of sharing online.
“We are slowly starting to learn the skills about managing ourselves online,” he said.
“There is that risk of negative consequences but we need to educate people about the quality of interactions instead of the quantity.”
Ms Foster agreed.
“The best thing people can do is understand that people’s opinions don’t matter,” she said.
“If you haven’t seen that person for years or don’t know them – their opinion doesn’t have power and they don’t have your best interest at heart.
“It’s an important skill.”
A key part of the RU OK? Day initiative was encouraging people with mental health problems to speak to family members or friends face-to-face.
“You do really need a one-on-one support person and not rely on conversations online or via text,” Mr Mack said.
“But social media is always a part of the process.”
According to Ms Foster, before posting and individual should think about what they were trying to achieve.
“If you are posting to be brave and make a stand, then go for it,” she said.
“But don’t have the expectation that people will flood you with positivity.
“Just know that you can’t control how people react.”