We live our daily lives with varying concerns about our wellbeing majorly focused on physical health. Most people like me don't term loneliness and depression a thing to worry about. But contrary to this, Psychologist Guy Winch while giving a TED talk expressed his concerns about the need for every individual to take care of their emotional health.
The 10th of October every year is set aside to celebrate World Mental Health Day and addresses the issue of emotional health below surface level. This year the World Health Organisation is focusing it's efforts around increasing awareness on psychological first aid to commemorate this year's World Mental Health Day. And the question of how technology is helping in this regard comes to mind.
Don't blame me if I am not thinking word of mouth evangelism as the first point of call. Embracing the technology tools available can help make the knowledge about mental health reach more people within a short time frame.
The Nigerian case
Though there are several health startups in Nigeria, very little actually focus on providing access to knowledge about mental health without the need to visit a hospital. For instance, Kangpe and Dokilink are platforms that individuals can use to connect with health professionals to help with various health concerns. While this will help in cases where there's delay in reaching a health facility for full diagnostics, it is a welcomed solution that might have difficulty scaling with more users.
Boko Haram insurgency, prevalent diseases, armed robbery, car accident and all forms of physical assault are few cases out of the many facing several Nigerians. These crisis have physical, social and emotional consequences on their victims when they are not detected early.
Taking care of the physical, social and emotional consequences of crisis facing Nigerians will require existing/new health startups to provide avenues on their platforms that provides psychological aid that addresses mental health.
Social media as a psychological first aid of sorts
Psychological first aid covers both psychological and social support just like general health care doesn't consist of physical first aid alone. Psychological first aid is part of a longer-term effort to ensure that anyone in acute distress due to a crisis is able to receive basic support. Hence, providing such aid requires knowledge and training from professionals.
If we are going to make it easier for people to get psychological aid it is imperative that we make the knowledge readily accessible. A quick reply will be to embrace the use of social media to spread the word about psychological first aid. According to a publication by Robert Whitley, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, McGill University, social media isn't improving the mental health of its users. But a study by Dr. Bridianne O'Dea proves otherwise. Dr. Bridianne says that the popular belief that taking a break from social media sites will help improve mental health is not 100% true.
Online interactions can actually have a positive impact on those experiencing a mental health problem. Social media is a tool that can be used positively or negatively. The focus really should be on how we can use social media platforms to provide psychological and social advocacy for mental health.