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Can social media improve the mental health of disaster survivors?

Over on Mind the Brain today, Shaili Jain, MD, a psychiatrist with Stanford and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, explores the way social media can help people after natural disasters. Addressing the possible mental-health benefits, she writes:

In addition to essential basic resources such as food, shelter and water, connecting with one’s social support whether they be family, community, school and friends are important resources which help survivors recover in the aftermath of a disaster. Such social support offers great protection to survivors in curbing the development of these adverse mental health consequences.

...

...[O]ne could argue that, for millennia, humans have been driven to gather, share testimony and memorialize in the aftermath of disaster. Anybody who works with trauma survivors can speak to the power of bearing witness to their trauma narrative and the healing that occurs when a survivor gives their testimony and how integral that is to their psychological recovery.

Jain highlights some of the research in this area before concluding that we don't know enough to say that social-media use can prevent the negative mental-health consequences of experiencing a disaster. But, she writes, "the lure of integrating social media technology into our [relief] efforts remains very strong."

Previously: Grieving on Facebook: A personal story, 9/11: Grieving in the age of social media, On using social media to improve emergency-preparedness efforts and Five ways social media may change mental health care
Photo by Infrogmation

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