Doctors use social media to boost mental health

By Joe Hannan | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published May 17, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • HCPs are taking to social media to eliminate mental health stigma, help reduce burnout, and provide concrete steps clinicians can take to improve their overall mental health.

  • As Americans contend with the mental-health fallout from COVID-19, and clinicians recover from the burdens of care during a pandemic, the timing of this couldn’t be better.

  • The doctors, nurses, and clinical psychologists behind these accounts each have a tailored message and approach that may speak to different types of healthcare providers.

As the pandemic eases, a shadow mental-health pandemic continues over America. COVID-19 prompted a dramatic increase in demand for mental healthcare services, according to a 2021 American Psychological Association survey.[] Among those looking for support are HCPs who are weary and scarred from their work.

A 2021 study published in eClinicalMedicine found that among a group of 20,947 healthcare workers queried between May 28 and Oct. 1, 2020, 49% had burnout, 43% indicated they were overworked, and 38% said they were experiencing anxiety and depression.[]

The following healthcare providers are stepping up through their social media presences to help you get through these tough times.

Each of these physicians uses their platform to provide actionable advice, eliminate stigma faced by doctors in the pandemic age, and alleviate suffering.

Justin Puder, PhD

Puder is known as amoderntherapist on Instagram, where he has 157,000 followers of his crusade to crush mental health stigma. Clinicians will appreciate Puder’s sense of humor, which goes a long way in making mental healthcare more accessible. Check out his hilarious take on the different types of therapists, guidance on developing mindfulness, and the difficulties of dealing with perfectionism.

In addition to the laughs, Puder’s social media presence demystifies the mental healthcare process, making pursuit of care for yourself (or your patients) a bit easier.

Benjamin Morrell, MD

Morrell, who goes by doctor.benergy on Instagram, has the loveable affect of your longtime buddy from high school. Watch a few of his videos and you’ll feel he has your best interests at heart. Those interests include reducing burnout and helping you rekindle your passions.

It doesn’t hurt that, like Puder, Morrell has a sense of humor. How many other MDs would pose wearing a pair of Pit Viper sunglasses? You’ll appreciate his candor.

Ketam Hamdan, PhD

Hamdan is perhaps better known to her 50,000 Instagram followers as brainhealthdoc, a psychologist dedicated to “teaching you how to look within to heal” and to “connect head, heart, and body for total health.” She doesn’t shy away from tackling many difficult topics clinicians may find relatable.

Try this post on languishing, a problem that has risen to prominence during the pandemic, this post on high-functioning depression, or this post on using language to change moods. Hamdan keeps things tactical and actionable, helping followers take control of their mental health.

Kathleen Burns, MD

Burns’ Instagram profile, where she’s known as drkhayb, is approaching 10,000 followers. We’re willing to bet a non-trivial percentage of those followers are healthcare providers, because Burns’ speciality is setting boundaries. Experience has shown that healthcare providers sometimes have a hard time saying no to patients, fellow clinicians, friends, family, and maybe even strangers.

She also tackles other challenging subjects including toxic work environments, relationships, and expectation-setting. Burns will show you how it’s done, with a bit of humility along the way.

Diana Page, NP

Nursing has its own distinct set of pressures, and it’s only logical this career would require specific counseling on burnout.

That’s where Page, known as catalystforselfcare to her 10,000 Instagram followers, comes in. Page works with nurses to stop burnout, manage boundaries, and shape careers. Her teaching stems from first-hand experience.

She almost quit nursing in 2014 after burning out, but made the switch to outpatient work. From there, she reshaped her career goals “without judgment or fear.” Her posts range from action-oriented advice—like this one on affirmations—to leaving work at work or the importance of mental health days.

Kara Pepper, MD

Consider yourself a “high-achieving perfectionist?” Pepper just may be the coach—and practicing internist—for what ails you. This is something that her 2,000 instagram followers, who know her as karapeppermd, appreciate.

What we appreciate about Pepper (among many other things) is her frankness. It’s on full display in this post, where she writes, “When conflict avoidance means safety, people pleasing perfectionism provides security.” She also offers great insights on setting priorities, rest as self-compassion, and self-reliance.

Kristen Fuller, MD

While we’re highlighting all of the amazing clinicians who use their platforms to talk about mental health, we’d be remiss not to call attention to MDLinx’s very own Kristen Fuller, MD. In addition to nearly a decade of work in family medicine and extensive experience writing about mental health, Fuller authors the MDLinx Real Talk column.

In Real Talk, Fuller boldly goes where many clinicians dare not, tackling topics such as drunk doctors, coping with patients who make you furious, and battling addiction. She believes that “mental health and addiction still holds an insurmountable amount of stigma among society and the medical community.”

Mindful social media

The clinicians mentioned in this article would likely be the first to remind you that the maxim “the dose makes the poison” also applies to social media. While it can be beneficial—as evidenced by how uplifting each of their platforms is—too much of a good thing can have negative consequences.

Understanding the extent of any connection between social media use and mental health problems remains a work in progress, according to a 2020 Cureus systematic study.[] The review “found “a general association between social media use and mental health issues”; however, research also indicates social media can support mental health.

For example, one study selected for inclusion found that while more time on social media translated to depressive symptoms in adolescents, the study found no relationship between social media use frequency and depressed moods. But another study in the review identified a 70% increase in self-reported symptoms of depression among social media users.

That’s head-spinning, for sure.

Regardless of what future research reveals, it’s worth being mindful of how social media is making you feel.

While there’s much ambiguity in current research, the Cureus study authors left little ambiguity about one aspect: that “social media envy can affect the level of anxiety and depression in individuals.”

What this means for you

The pandemic has been a psychological struggle for many—including healthcare workers. Fortunately, the HCPs in this article use their social media platforms and expertise to help. Like any other resource, however, social media should be used mindfully. While research has identified negative mental-health outcomes from overuse of social media, the findings are sometimes contradictory.

Related: These 6 social media tips can help boost your career

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