Cries for help on Twitter linked to spike in mental-health hospitalisations – Yahoo Sports

Posted: February 7, 2020 at 1:45 pm

This post was added by Alex Diaz-Granados

Cries for help on Twitter have been linked to a spike in mental-health crises.

Scientists from Kings College London analysed the volume of depression and schizophrenia tweets published on the social media site over five years.

On days where the output was above average, mental health related hospitalisations were found to increase by up to 15%.

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Around a quarter of people experience a mental health issue every year in the UK. In the US, one in five adults suffer annually.

The portrayal of suicide or self harm via TV and film has long been linked to mental health-relevant outcomes among the public, the scientists wrote.

A public figure dying by suicide has also been associated with suicidal behaviour in exposed populations, they added.

One study reportedly found a 10% increase in general population suicides following the death of Good Will Hunting actor Robin Williams.

The scientists assume some people may be sensitised to these events.

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Social media is increasingly being blamed for everything from a surge in depression to plummeting self-esteem.

With sites such as Instagram and Twitter exploding in recent years, the scientists set out to uncover whether tweets are an accurate way of analysing behaviours.

They looked at the number of crisis episodes admitted to South London and Maudsley, and Camden and Islington NHS foundation trusts.

These were compared against a random 10% sample of all tweets published between January 2010 and December 2014.

The tweets were screened according to any mention of depression or schizophrenia.

Social media use has 'exploded' in recent years. (Getty)

Higher volume days were defined as more than six in every 10 million, or 10 in every one billion, tweets referencing the mental-health conditions.

Results, published in the journal Scientific Reports, reveal hospital admissions were up to 15% higher on days with above-median schizophrenia-related Twitter posts.

Above-median depression tweet days were linked to a 9% rise in the number of hospitalisations.

The scientists believe their results contribute some support to concerns, already widely expressed over social media.

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It's important to consider this kind of research does not suggest the content of social media is thecauseof the increase in crisis, said Dr Bob Patton from the University of Surrey.

The researchers had no way to determine what (if any) social media exposure those in crisis had experienced.

However, this research does provide compelling evidence the two are linked, and as such lends further support to recent suggestions that social media providers need to be sensitive to the content they host and links to sources of help and support should accompany messages with a focus upon sensitive issues.

The Kings scientists stressed: Twitter posts are likely to be only a proxy indicator of exposures potentially influencing mental health and mental healthcare crisis episodes are only a proxy indicator of population mental health.

For confidential emotional support at times of distress, contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123 or emailing jo@samaritans.org.

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Cries for help on Twitter linked to spike in mental-health hospitalisations - Yahoo Sports

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