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  • Writer's pictureAshley Floyd

Why "Instagram Mental Health" is Bullshit

Ashley Floyd, LMFT

Record-scratch. Freeze frame. Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got here.

You run a mental health-based account on Instagram, you say, how could you possibly think it’s bullshit? Let me explain.

What is “Instagram Mental Health”

“Instagram mental health” (or what I’ll refer to as IGMH for the sake of this article) is the rose-colored advice, common on Instagram, that would have you believe that improving your mental health is all sunshine and rainbows. It often looks like a pretty quote on a pretty background. Imagine a beautiful orange sunset overlayed with the words “All you have to do is *~believe~* in yourself” in neon pink cursive. Other times, it is touted as “wellness” and pushed by people who are not mental health professionals. And sometimes, IGMH looks like someone making a promise in order to sell you something. Think, “If you buy my (course, book, vitamin), you’ll (feel happier, have higher self-esteem, always be ready to *~take on the day~*).”

Quick clarification here: I am not saying that all mental health-based accounts on Instagram fall under “IGMH”. There are a lot of great creators who speak on the fact that healing is not, in fact, always sunshine and rainbows.

Why IGMH is Bullshit

At its best, IGMH is unrealistic and misleading. It paints the picture that healing and improving your mental health is easy or simple. It leads you to believe that if you do “X”, you’re guaranteed to experience “Y”. Meditate your way to a more fulfilling life. Practice these yoga poses to achieve mental clarity. Take my course to have control over your emotions. Read my book and have mind-blowing sex for the rest of your life.

And at its worst, it can be harmful. When IGMH sets up unrealistic expectations, we’re likely to feel bad about ourselves when we don’t meet those expectations. This can bring about self-critical thoughts or feelings of shame. IGMH can do harm to those who are most vulnerable - those who are looking for help.

Nuance note: The claims mentioned above aren’t necessarily bullshit. Meditation and yoga are incredibly helpful practices. Courses and books are great educational tools. The accounts making these claims may not be claiming to be mental health education accounts. It creeps into bullshit IGMH territory when (1) it is an attempt to offer mental health education and (2) there is no recognition of how hard the process can be, ESPECIALLY for those who struggle with issues related to mental health. It lands solidly in bullshit IGMH territory when it’s promoting advice, a promise, or a product with no attention to what the process of healing actually looks like.

What we can do about it

When following mental health social media accounts, there are a few things we can ask ourselves to make sure we’re not being fed IGMH. The first, and perhaps most important, question is “How does this content make me feel?” Does it make you feel seen, validated, inspired? Or does it make you feel let down or not good enough? Ask yourself if the post/account is trying to sell you something. Ask yourself if what is being discussed seems too good to be true. And at the end of the day, unfollow any accounts that make you feel bad.

What I can do about it

As a therapist running a mental health account on Instagram, I take my role very seriously. In therapy and online, it’s important to have realistic expectations. And the reality is that sometimes healing is hard. Sometimes it’s exhausting. There are absolutely times of joy and empowerment and clarity. And still, sometimes, it’s heartbreaking. By being transparent about what therapy and the healing process look like, I hope to validate the experiences of my clients and followers. I hope to reduce feelings of shame for not living up to some social media standard of what healing “should” look like. I hope to cut through the IGMH bullshit.

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