Recommendations relating to Social Media

Social media can be a powerful tool for people to connect, learn and have fun. However, it also presents significant challenges: many survey participants reported seeing or reading content that was hurtful or offensive in terms of how mental health issues were portrayed.

There is an enormous opportunity to ensure online communities are safe, inclusive and respectful of all experiences, including complex mental health issues. To do this, users need to be educated about the impact of the language and imagery they use when referring to complex mental health issues. Mechanisms to report content that is offensive are also critical to improving the online experience for people with complex mental health issues. 

Many survey participants reported they had withdrawn from or avoided social media, filtered the information they share, not read or contributed to comments about mental health, and taken other measures to protect privacy. Some shared stories of seeing stigmatising content about specific mental health diagnoses, examples of trolling, bullying and inappropriate language. Where participants did share positive experiences, these related to the use of social media within advocacy projects or the ability to foster community through closed or private online groups.


"People are awful. I wrote about how I'd tried to take my life, and was absolutely attacked by trolls who commented sarcastically and extremely hurtfully. It's not safe to express yourself on social media. Not at all."     

– Our Turn to Speak participant, Victoria    


In order to create a social media context that is inclusive and safe for people affected by complex mental health issues, users need to have a better understanding of such issues and how to speak about them positively. Conversely, where content about mental health is not positive, users need a mechanism where they can easily report this behaviour, with social media platforms taking responsibility for harmful content that perpetuates stigma and discrimination. 


Recommendations for action

  1. Develop a social media campaign to share positive stories of hope and recovery from people with lived experience of complex mental health issues. 
  2. Develop a resource to educate social media users about the impact of stigmatising language.
  3. Encourage social media platforms to consider safety-by-design principles and include a reporting function that enables people affected by complex mental health issues to report stigmatising behaviour.