AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Social media is having an impact on mental health, and how young people are seeking help. NewsChannel 6 spoke with college students and professionals about the good and bad influences it can have.

It shows that the “mental health” hashtag on the TikTok app has been searched more than 70 billion times, and it’s becoming a way that users are self-diagnosing mental health issues. 

“I call them the ‘fast fix-it apps,’ and that’s no way empirically validated or what we use when we’re diagnosing and treating mental illness,” said Dr. Tonjanika Jackson, a Licensed Professional Counselor in Augusta.

However, healthcare providers at Augusta University do think that people who use social media have brought more attention to the topic of mental health.

“Whenever they’ve got a positive message and can raise awareness and reduce stigma on their platforms, I think it does a good job of it,” said Harrison Lamp, the Nurse Manager at AU Student Health. “As long as they’re being sensitive and careful about it.”

A Mental Health America study says Georgia ranks 48th out of all the states when it comes to access to mental health care.

Young adults tell us they can use social media apps to try to fill this gap.

“Some traditional therapies are just really expensive, but being able to find someone on the internet who’s like ‘I’ve been through this’ and kind of just helping, it can be a small step, or even just even realizing ‘oh maybe I do have a problem,'” said Skylar Kirkpatrick, a student at AU.

But it’s not a permanent solution.

“I don’t think that getting help from TikTok and Instagram is the answer, seeking professional help is definitely the way to do it,” Kirkpatrick said.

“Please stay away from these apps, and these fast diagnoses,” Dr. Jackson said. “Stay away from those until you know they are empirically validated and there are real clinicians behind that computer screen.”

Augusta University offers free counseling sessions to students, and many licensed psychologists offer online sessions that are covered by health insurance plans.