Mental Health: Our Responsibility as Social Media Strategists

Social Media and Mental Health

As social media becomes more deeply embedded in our day-to-day lives, we experience more and more of our deep human moments through it. May is Mental Health Awareness Month – a reminder of the real responsibility we hold as social media managers to care for the relationships built online.

Social media exists in a unique dichotomy. On one hand, it extends our personal social networks in a way no other media can. It enables companies, brands and organizations to connect on a personal, one-to-one level with consumers, clients and other constituent communities.

On the other, a virtual presence encourages us to express ourselves without the filters of other social conventions. And, sadly, the mask of a screen emboldens verbal violence that would not be tolerated in any other setting. Verbal violence is now an expected – and accepted – part of online conversation. As a result, social media has become both a place where people in crisis reach out for help, and where the vulnerable are also at risk of attack by others.

A Responsibility Beyond Reputation

At Gillespie Hall, we pioneered the use of social media in public relations. Our clients count on us for strategy, content and counsel on engagement and monitoring. Particularly during Mental Health Awareness Month, we are reminded that this responsibility goes beyond reputation management.

Many of our clients – especially those in health services and education – have deep, trusting relationships with their patients, students, clients… and their social media followers. The Pew Research Center has found that more than two-thirds of U.S. adults are now Facebook users.

With those figures, it’s natural that people in crisis will use social media to reach out to organizations they already turn to for support and guidance. That’s why we have updated our social media response plans to incorporate the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s guidelines for identifying suicide risk and responding online.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at any time to speak to someone and get support. For confidential support available 24/7 for everyone in the United States, call 1-800-273-8255.

The Way A Page Responds Defines Its Humanity

But this possibility is not limited to health and human services or related organizations. Consumers now expect more personal connections with their favorite businesses, brands and causes online. They invest emotionally in these relationships, the way they developed trust in late-night DJs several decades ago. And when people feel lonely or in despair, they reach out for support to those they trust; someone they believe is listening.

We’re helping our clients navigate this dynamic. After all, social networking sites are communities. The responsibility of managing an online community requires awareness, empathy and compassion. The way a page responds to its community members defines the humanity of the company, brand or organization behind the page.

Creating Safe and Welcoming Communities

We can’t talk about the connection between mental health and social media without addressing cyber-bullying. We help our clients keep their social media communities safe and welcoming by establishing and maintaining social media response plans to guard against posts that can insult or injure. After all, public relations is people relations. As public relations professionals, we take seriously our calling to care for our clients and fellow humans, carrying out social media strategies that promote and protect.

For more information on suicide prevention and mental health, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline guidelines for digital communities and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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