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Can social media improve the mental health of disaster survivors?

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

2 Responses to “ Can social media improve the mental health of disaster survivors? ”

  1. Sharon Stocker Says:

    I have used social media for 17 years now. Defining disaster to people might mean different things to other people. For me, the disaster was the psychological fear imposed from events in my early childhood beginnings. Social media has been integral in assisting me through the psychiatric chaos and into society where I now work and interact with people, no longer fearful that I need to hide from the external manifestation that my internal fears perpetuated. No longer a victim in silence, however connected by the trust that a new confidence can fulfil meaning & purpose in my life. I don’t think we need to be contemplating the concept of prevention – I think we should be embracing social media as an interactive intervention.
    As highlighted in the post …. “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.”

  2. Shelley Heath Says:

    I do agree with what the quote says. In semester one of my first year at uni we did a research paper on psychological wellbeing and the effect of both giving and receiving of social support… it was shown that both have a positive relationship to improved psychological wellbeing. The questionnaire used for the social support side of the research was devised in part by one of the uni lecturers whose pet subject area is post traumatic growth. While she was doing the subject with us she was also debriefing emergency rescuers from Grantham and also doing counselling work around Goodna after the 2011 Qld floods.
    I agree that social media is integral in the provision of social support but perhaps not in isolation, there needs to be the physical element as well… like seen post 911 and also Christchurch earthquakes a new sense of community evolved and people were actually looking out for their neighbours again… so a combination is preferable after all a computer can’t give you a warm hug.

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