Mental Health issues have never been as publicised as they are right now. With Mental Health Awareness Day and a self-proclaimed “generation of anxiety”, more and more influencers are exposing their mental illnesses to the world via Youtube videos, Instagram posts and tweets.
But with this constant access to Mental Health information coming from often uninformed influencers, the number of people self-diagnosing is on the increase, despite psychologists warning of the dangers of doing so.
Still, it can be seen on many platforms that adults, teens and children are proclaiming themselves to have anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder and more. Unofficially diagnosed people are joining mental health support groups, and some are even claiming
mental health issues because it’s the ‘in thing’ to do.
YouTube influencers have been seen recently trying to decode mental health issues in themselves and others. Most notably, Shane Dawson’s newest documentary series The Mind Of Jake Paul has had not only himself, but also many of his 18.2 million subscribers, talking about Sociopathy on YouTube.
Although this is a great topic to try to tackle online, and awareness is definitely needed, it can be argued that Shane’s approach has been less than helpful to the cause. As his first videos were posted, they received both rave reviews and many criticisms.
Fans and critics alike found Shane and his friends to be dramatic in their descriptions of sociopathy – focussing largely on the worst traits of the illness. The spooky music playing in the background only enhanced the effect and put viewers on edge – whether they feared sociopaths being “1 in every 25 people” (as said by Kati Morton, the psychologist in the videos), or because viewers began to distrust this overly dramatic scene.
Shane has since apologised for the way he handled this whole situation, and subsequent videos have been improved upon by reduced drama and added disclaimers. He also apologised to fans on Snapchat and Instagram stories, but many believe that the damage has already been done.
Hundreds of Dawson fans began diagnosing themselves, each other, and famous YouTubers (especially the series’ stars, Jake and Logan Paul), with sociopathy. YouTube videos have been made, fans have been tweeting the Paul brothers, calling one or both of them sociopaths. Logan Paul has even made a video response to the series, which in his usual style, is aimed to cause more problems than it solves.
Other YouTubers have also chipped in with their knowledge of mental health issues and sociopathy, however none have summed it up better, or in a more unbiased way, than Gabbie Hanna whose video The Truth About What YouTube REALLY Does To Your Brain… looks at the real psychology of sociopaths and YouTube, and comes to a correct and satisfying conclusion that you cannot diagnose someone through their YouTube videos.
She points out that creators and influencers show only select moments of their lives, and even daily vloggers such as the Paul brothers choose what they show viewers. So, who are we to decide whether there are sociopaths on social media?
There is no doubt that some YouTubers are sociopaths, but as it stands, there is no reason to suggest that YouTube has a higher sociopathy rate in its creators than any other company would have in their employees. It scares me to think that there are hundreds of thousands of people in the world making assumptions about other people, based on uninformed YouTubers making videos about mental health. I am, honestly, a huge fan of Shane Dawson and his content, but for me, this is not #MentalHealthAwareness.
However, according to a study named “People Care”, learning to recognise mental health issues in others online could actually be a useful thing – for example, certain online behaviours of American school shooters could have led to interventions in several cases in recent years.
“In the 2014 fatal shootings in Marysville, Washington and Seattle Pacific University, a review of the perpetrators’ social media activity revealed potential missed opportunities for intervention”
as found in People Care: Recommendations from native youth to address concerning mental health displays, by Jesse C. Gritton MPH, et al.
So where do we draw the line on diagnosing online? There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer, other than this:
If you think that anyone could put themselves or someone else in danger – get them help.
If not, don’t assume their mental health conditions – you don’t know these influencers.
If you think that you are suffering with mental illness or any similar issues, contact your local doctor and get yourself some help. Self-diagnosis isn’t going to help you, but perhaps a professional can.
If you would like more information on Mental Health, click here for the full NHS list of mental health helplines.
Or, if you or anyone you know are in any immediate danger, here is a list of helplines for you: