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Social media use for supporting mental health (SMILE)

Gill Brown (School of Psychology, University of Bolton, Bolton, UK)
Amy Leigh Rathbone (School of Psychology, University of Bolton, Bolton, UK)
Julie Prescott (School of Psychology, University of Bolton, Bolton, UK)

Mental Health Review Journal

ISSN: 1361-9322

Article publication date: 8 July 2021

Issue publication date: 6 September 2021




The SMILE study (social media as informal support for people with mental illness: an exploratory study) aimed to explore how people with mental health issues use and value social media as a support mechanism.


A systematic search of Facebook and Twitter identified groups and pages relating to mental health issues. In total, 203 users over the age of 18 were recruited via Facebook and Twitter. Any user who considered themselves to experience mental health problems could opt to participate and no exclusion criteria were applied. A mixed-methods online survey retrieved demographic and qualitative data by asking users to describe their personal experiences when using social media for mental health support.


Users perceive Facebook and Twitter as useful online resources to gain informational and emotional support and to share experiences. The benefits were; ease of access, anonymity and personal control over engagement levels. Users had subjective experiences of engagement, however, overall these were deemed positive. Using Facebook and Twitter for mental health provided users with a sense of connectedness and reduced feelings of isolation.


The qualitative methodology allowed participants to share their experiences and views, with positive implications for services. Social media was discussed as a prospective tool for raising awareness and reducing stigma. The study highlights the scope for mental health service providers to tap into the social media consumer market and provide quality online support provision.



Brown, G., Rathbone, A.L. and Prescott, J. (2021), "Social media use for supporting mental health (SMILE)", Mental Health Review Journal, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 279-297.



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