It’s not just TikTok, that’s just the new, flashy, platform that Mashable want’s to put in their headline. The same thing happens on every platform. Creators, many of them calling themselves “life coaches” offer a lot of mental health advice, that may or may not be at all correct.
Now, do I think these platforms should start certifying licensed mental health professionals? I have a LOT of questions about how that would work, and how you’d check to make sure the licensing is kept up to date. (Let alone the fact that there are licensed professionals who still spread misinformation.)
So what should we do about that. I think this quote is maybe the best thing in the article:
“Until then, users need to be more discerning when it comes to taking advice from internet strangers.”
The other thing those of us on social media who want to talk about mental health and provide safe spaces for people to talk about mental health, is to remember our own limitations. For example, I’m not a professional, so you’re not going to see me trying to diagnose people, or recommending treatments. I’ll gladly point to professionals who are writing those things. I’ll gladly tell you my thoughts based on my lived experience, and make sure that we all know I’m talking about my experience, and that you are not me.
But, that’s easy for me to say, I’m not also out here trying to be a life coach.
The issue, online and off, really seems to be that we’ve allowed the term “life coach” to encroach on actual mental health care. Part of that is, as the article points out, because there isn’t enough actual mental health care available. If you can’t get in to see a therapist, and there’s someone offering online mental health advice, what are you going to do?
And just to be 100% clear, I think there is a place for a life coach. I’ve known people who do this, and people who’ve benefitted from coaching around job searches, developing professional skills, career advice, physical fitness, etc. Look, having someone motivate you, keep you focused, and provide tips can be a huge help.
But, if you had a broken arm, you wouldn’t hop online and talk to your life coach. You’d go see a professional to have it treated. There’s a reason for that, just as there should be a reason why, when someone needs mental health advice, they should get it from professionals, and not random people on the internet.
Including me. Take what I can offer in terms of sharing information and trying to eliminate stigma, but if I start giving out my own definitions of depression, or telling you how to treat your anxiety, (unless I’m quoting actual professionals), feel free to ignore that. 😉