At first glance, there is no obvious connection between TikTok and mental health. However, as a brief WYNT article warns, TikTok can influence teens to self-diagnose themselves with ADD/ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and depression. Therapists have seen a rise in teenagers claiming to have one of the above disorders. The issue here is that teens are using the word too lightly – feeling anxiety is not equivalent to having anxiety disorder. Of course, the article then lapsed into a discussion of TikTok and security threats, but the message is still there: what do we do about the public perception of mental health, especially when it comes to teenagers?
Considering that today’s teenagers are experiencing a mental health crisis due to the pandemic, misinformation mishaps due to social media are the last thing we want. By so glibly throwing around words like “anxiety disorder” and “depression,” influencers undermine the actual weight that these words carry. Although it is a good thing that mental health is receiving more attention is this manner, the attention it is getting is desensitizing the teenage public to the gravity of the mental health situation in our country by reducing it to a few offhand comments about a teacher’s annoying grading policies. Depression is much graver than that. The voices of the teenagers who are actually suffering from anxiety and/or depression are being drowned out by the voices of those who don’t have it – some of these TikTok users are actually suffering from a mental health disorder or simply trying to offer their thoughts on mental health, but it is impossible to tell who it is when there are so many others crying wolf. In addition, the misinformation surrounding mental health can prevent teenagers from identifying when these mental health disorders actually appear, either in other people or themselves, because they have a skewed perception of how it manifests. It’s not that TikTok is an evil institution (which is arguable, but I will shelve that argument), it’s how people use it which can be harmful.