Beyond social media panics for 'at risk' youth in mental health practice
Hendry, N and Robards, B and Stanford, S, Beyond social media panics for 'at risk' youth in mental health practice, Beyond the Risk Paradigm in Mental Health, Palgrave Macmillan, S Stanford, NR Heller, E Sharland and J Warner (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 135-154. ISBN 9781137441355 (2017) [Research Book Chapter]
Copyright 2017 selection and editorial matter: Sonya Stanford, Elaine Sharland, Nina Rovinelli Heller and Joanne Warner; individual chapters: contributors
It has been argued that 'self harm hashtags may be driving [an] increase of cutting in young people' (Chang, 2014). These discourses frame self-harm, suicidal or eating disorder content that circulates across online sites - such as Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook and Snapchat - as seductive and powerful, posing a significant risk to young people with mental health problems. In this chapter we argue the need to look beyond simplistic or alarmist analyses of social media use by young people experiencing mental health problems promoted by news media and other concerned stakeholders. We suggest that the sensationalization of online activities, such as self-harming blogs and pictures, by news media shifts the focus away from young people's experiences of social suffering. This diminishes recognition of 'the lived experience of the social damage inflicted in late capitalist societies on the least powerful and the intra-psychic and relational wounds that result' (Frost & Hoggett, 2008, p. 440). Instead, attention is drawn to the 'spectacular performance of despairing' that is afforded by the social media in question (Ferreday, 2010, p. 424). At the same time, news media also warps the actual nature of young people's lived experiences of social suffering that results from mental illness. Media panics over young people's use of social media obscure the complex human rights issues faced by young people with mental illness. The many social injustices young people face are also muted amidst the noise of alarmist social media discourses. This means that young people's online expression of their experiences of mental illness is framed as a distortion in mental health policy and practice contexts. Their accounts of suffering injustices and restricted or denied human rights are at risk of being invalidated by policymakers and practitioners.