A Critical Assessment of Mental Health Discourse among Young Adults on TikTok

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Horridge, Ricardo
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Mount Saint Vincent University
In the rapidly evolving digital age, TikTok emerges as a significant platform influencing young adults' perceptions and discourses. This research delves deep into the nuances of how mental health is discussed amongst young adults on TikTok. Despite the recognized relationship between social media and mental health, there exists a large research gap regarding the discourse patterns, especially on newer platforms like TikTok. This study begins to fills that void, setting out to explore more than just the existence of a relationship between social media and mental health, but also the intricacies of the discourse – how it is facilitated, stigmatized, and the role of community-building, education and contrastingly negative elements in the conversation. Through detailed thematic and content analysis of 120 TikToks using hashtags #mentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters, #DepressionAnxiety, and #MentalIllness and 20 random sampled comments, this research uncovers the multifaceted nature of TikTok as a medium: from sharing personal experiences and seeking advice to challenging the prevalent stigmatization surrounding mental health. The findings shed light on TikTok's potential for both positive and negative influences on mental health discourse, highlighted by instances of misinformation, emotional expression, and the delicate balance between support and negativity in the conversation. The study's conclusions offer actionable insights for researchers and other academics looking to further analyze discussions on the platform. Additionally, by pinpointing existing limitations and gaps, this research sets the stage for future investigations in this critical area of study.