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The growth of online presence and its influence is at a peak due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There has been a dramatic transition to utilizing online interactions such as ZOOM, Telehealth and social media to relay information or purely just for entertainment. While mostly used for entertainment, social media can be a wonderful tool in promoting mental health with positive messages of hope and healing.

In the past year, I have taken on the role of Social Media Coordinator for the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene to assist in promoting mental health awareness by utilizing safe messaging tactics. Being born and raised in Dunkirk and a State University of New York at Fredonia alumni, I hope to provide a locally inspired insight on how powerful social media can be in our community. I received my Bachelor of Social Work in the spring of 2021 and completed my senior internship with The Suicide Prevention Alliance of Chautauqua County, Tapestry Resilience Initiative and Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene.

The Department of Mental Hygiene’s mission is to plan, develop, and provide accessible, comprehensive, integrated, outcome-based mental hygiene services of the highest quality to residents of Chautauqua County, maximizing all available resources in the most efficient and cost effective manner. One of these resources is utilizing social media to assist in promoting our mental health services by applying safe messaging, creative content and showcasing our staff to the public. By posting conversations with our staff and touring our clinics online, our goal is to create a sense of comfortability and help ease the anxiety that may come along with seeking out mental health treatment. A big part of our social media presence has been creating videos featuring local outreach events and highlighting our beautiful community. The popularity of the Internet sensational app “TikTok” has given the Mental Hygiene Department an advantage in appealing to the public.

According to recent 2021 research data, social media statistics show that an average of two hours and 25 minutes are spent per day per person on social media (DataReportal, 2021). The effects of social media on mental health is a fine line between positive and negative. Experiencing safe messaging during your time of usage has potential benefits on your mental health and wellness. The definition of safe messaging means to support safety, help seeking, hope and healing in the form of online content. Providing guidance, ethical reporting, positive narratives and sharing local resources is the leading way to deter negative effects of social media on mental health.

The Department of Mental Hygiene hopes to engage our local community with positivity while simultaneously decreasing the stigma surrounding mental health. We all go through struggles whether you can see them or not. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health and needs to be treated as such. It is okay to seek out help in times of uncertainty. Even if you are doing great in life, there is no harm in talking to someone you can trust. Let us end the stigma surrounding mental health and create a safe environment by talking about it!

You can check out and follow our social media pages by searching our usernames below!

Julie Paredes is social media coordinator for the county’s Department of Mental Hygeniene. Social media accounts include https://www.facebook.com/MentalHygieneCHQ on Facebook & https://www.instagram.com/mentalhygienechq/ on Instagram and also on TikTok at https://www.tiktok.com/@chqmentalhygiene


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