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expert reaction to study looking at the volume of mental health-related tweets on Twitter and crisis episodes

research, published in Scientific Reports, reports on the connection between mental health-related tweets on Twitter and crisis episodes.

Dr Bob Patton, Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, University of Surrey, said:

“This research explored the association between the content of social media (specifically Twitter), and the incidence of mental health “crises” (when immediate help was required, typically an admission to hospital / specialist centre or a visit from a mental health professional). A domino effect has been previously reported, finding increases in self harm in the days following increased media coverage of suicide. In this study data on the number of tweets that mentioned either depression or schizophrenia was compared to the number of mental health crisis incidents recorded by two NHS mental health trusts, finding a statistically significant association between the two –  on days with higher than average numbers of tweets on mental health, there was an increase in the number of crisis incidents. 

“It’s important to consider that this kind of research does not suggest that the content of social media is the cause of the increase in crisis. The researchers had no way to determine what (if any) social media exposure those in crisis had experienced. However, this research does provide compelling evidence that the two are linked, and as such lends further support to recent suggestions that social media providers need to be sensitive to the content that they host and that links to sources of help and support should accompany messages with a focus upon sensitive issues.”


Mental health-related conversations on social media and crisis episodes: a time-series regression analysis’ by Anna Kolliakou et al. will be published in Scientific Reports at 16:00 UK time on Thursday 6th February, which is also when the embargo will lift. 

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-57835-9


Declared interests

Dr Bob Patton:  No conflict of interest declared.

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