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A window into mental health, social media can’t sub for human link

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The Aug. 19 editorial “Trauma and depression: It’s all in the tweets” described how researchers are mining social media posts for clues about mental illness, identifying signs of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder based on an analysis of tweets. I applaud these researchers for their creative approach to learning more about mental illness.

While studies have shown that people may confide more to a computer than to a health care professional, Twitter is certainly not a “quiet therapist,” as you describe it. Many of today’s conversations happen on social channels, but it is important not to base a diagnosis of mental illness on social media posts.

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We certainly want to avoid anthropomorphosis by attributing healing capacity to a communications vehicle. At their best, social media are just one lens for us to examine how individuals are crying for help.

Human beings need to start a conversation about addressing depression and PTSD in our society, and social media can be an important part of this process. With a stronger voice, we can work to end the stigma that society associates with mental illness and show people that it is OK to talk about mental illness, online and offline.

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As the world goes digital, we cannot forget the people behind these posts and the value of face-to-face interactions.

Nicholas Covino

President

Massachusetts School of

Professional Psychology

Newton

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