Mental Health Awareness Month: Students talk about social media

Social media plays a factor in mental health as it is designed to make people’s brains focus on negativity, Dr. Mark Beecher explains. Students opened up about their experience with social media and mental illness. (Ivette Galvez)

As May comes to a close, so does Mental Health Awareness Month. Online research has shown mental illness is prevalent in the state of Utah. Students have opened up about their experiences with mental health struggles and, specifically, social media.

Utah is the state with the highest rate of adults with mental illness, according to a 2023 report by Mental Health America. Additionally, the state is ranked number 22 in relation to access to insurance and mental health.

According to online sources, a factor that influences mental health is social media. Individuals at risk of social media addiction will likely report lower self-esteem and depressive symptoms, shared psychological journal articles.

“Social media is a daily thing. It has often become what I immediately open on my phone,” Victoria Morriss, BYU—Idaho student, said.

Morriss has a passion for fashion and looking up styles on social media. She said if she is not careful, social media becomes a “giant comparison field.”

“It makes me feel no sense of accomplishment when I’m done and I have to force myself to not compare to others,” Morris said.

Candace Contreras, a BYU senior, talked about her journey getting social media and how it affected her mental health.

“Before using social media at 16, I didn’t care much about what people thought of me,” Contreras said.

When Contreras began using social media apps, she said she saw how many events she was left out of.

“It really impacted my mental health a lot because it just made me feel like I wasn’t good enough in a lot of ways,” Contreras said.

Additionally, Contreras said she began to constantly compare herself to others. These factors led to her depression and a negative body image, she explained.

Social media is “bombarded with diet culture and ridiculous standards,” Mark Beecher, assistant clinical director at BYU Counseling and Psychological Services, explained.

Our brains are designed to protect us from the negative and from not fitting in, Beecher said. As minds watch for that, they end up focusing on the negative and are more stimulated by it, he explained.

The information we see from social media suggests we do not fit in, Beecher said.

Emily Cluff Nyfeler, a BYU alumna, struggled with “moderate anxiety and depression” for the first time in her life during her pregnancy, she said.

“The hormones of pregnancy and childbirth definitely influenced this, but I think social media played a part as well,” Nyfeler said.

While pregnant, Nyfeler felt she should be able to do what all influencers were doing, such as exercising, working full-time jobs and keeping the house in order, she said. She explained these were not possible for her because she was sick her whole pregnancy.

“It led to anxiety and depression even though I was unreasonably comparing myself to individuals with virtually no pregnancy symptoms,” Nyfeler said.

The use of social media continued to play a negative role in her life after Nyfeler had her baby, she explained.

“Unfortunately, a lot of motherhood discussion on social media is quite negative,” Nyfeler said.

Many posts relayed pessimistic information about what comes next with a baby, she said, giving her anxiety. She continued to compare herself to influencer moms in the media, as well, Nyfeler explained.

With the amount of negative content on social media, users will tend to think everything is bad, Beecher said.

“It takes active effort to recognize, pay attention and assimilate the positive things around us,” he added.

“Big name influencers” carefully craft their posts and are more concerned with likes and comments than portraying their lives accurately, Nyfeler said.

“Live life yourself and create your own ideas about how things should be for you,” Nyfeler said.

Contreras added the reminder that social media only shows the positive things happening in others’ lives.

“Everyone is going through personal trials and struggles and … it’s okay to take a step back and not have (social media),” Contreras said.

Beecher added tips for taking care of mental health.

“I would hope that people can realize mental health matters, emotions matter,” he said.

People shove down their emotions or discount them, Beecher explained, which makes them suffer more.

“The space we make for them helps us to be able to handle them better. … I wish for more people to be able to do that,” Beecher said.

Utah is the state with the highest rates of adults with mental illness and suicidal ideation, according to Mental Health America. BYU students struggling with mental health are invited to visit BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services, says Dr. Mark Beecher. (Graphic made by Ivette Galvez, information provided by Mental Health America)

Utah is not only the state with the highest percentage of adults with mental illness, but also has the highest rate of suicidal ideation among adults every year since 2013, Mental Health America reported.

“Utah also continues to have a disproportionately higher rate of suicidal ideation than any other state,” MHA’s 2023 report stated.

Beecher invites students to visit CAPS. There is not much of a wait time right now, he said.

Additionally, CAPS is offering suicide prevention training.

Students can go to for more information or visit their office in 1500 WSC. Additionally, those who are or know someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts can call the number 988.

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