If you spend a lot of time on Pinterest, you're probably exposed to a lot of depressing posts about depression — and not enough helpful, hopeful posts.
At least that's what a new study from the University of Georgia and Virginia Commonwealth University found. The authors of this study called for people in the health field to add more to the online conversation, such as posts about how to fight and cope with depression, what treatments are available and when to see a doctor.
"This is a great opportunity for health professionals and health public relations professionals to engage in and put in more effective messages out there on this platform," said study author Dr. Yan Jin, an associate professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, in a press release.
Dr. Jin and team looked at 783 Pinterest posts. They analyzed these posts for how depressing they were. Over half referred to severe depression — the kind linked to self-harm. Others included less direct messages, such as depressing poetry or dark prose. And then there were the posts that openly discussed suicidal thoughts.
These researchers picked up on a lack of posts that might counterbalance these depressing Pinterest posts. And few health professionals were getting involved in the conversation.
"Conversations on social media platforms, especially ones like Pinterest, can provide insight in how both depression sufferers and others engage in conversation about this disorder outside of a formal health care setting," said study co-author Jeanine Guidry, a doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University, in a press release.
Guidry added, "Depression is a serious illness, as well as a public health issue. This can help us understand both depression and the way we cope with it in a more comprehensive manner."
An estimated 15.7 million US adults had at least one period of major depression in 2012, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That's nearly 7 percent of all the adults in the country.
While depression is both common and serious, it is also treatable — with therapy, medication and other options. If you're struggling with depression, talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
This study was published Dec. 9 in the journal Public Relations Review. Information about funding sources and conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.