Posted on April 8, 2019 by Michael Green
It takes just one simple online search to uncover all sorts of dangers and warnings around social media use. From loss of productivity to impairing sleep, there is no lack of research or experts citing the downsides of online communities and digital mediums for communication. One area in particular that has often made media headlines is how social media has been found to affect the mental health of Canadians across the country — especially youth.
Mood changes, increased anxiety and erosion of self-esteem are just a few of the negative impacts that social media has been found to have made. However, there are positive aspects of social media sites and communities that are far less discussed. Social media does offer positive attributes, especially to those in isolated communities or isolating situations.
As part of Canada Health Infoway’s bold new vision of ACCESS 2022, the organization has partnered with digital health leaders across the country who share a passion for innovation and digital health care initiatives. One such leader is Aidan Scott.
Aidan is an advocate for mental health and the founder of digital health tool, Speakbox. He understands that the power of an online community goes beyond mental health. As a teenager, he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and was living with nightmares, anxiety attacks and even dissociation. Similar to many other youth his age, he turned to online communities for support and found a space where he was able to feel understood and supported. He no longer felt alone and was able to realize the positive values of social media — and use this experience as an inspiration to forge a career in youth mental health advocacy.
According to Aidan, harnessing the power of an online community can positively affect mental health as social media is a space where like-minded Canadians can connect to seek and share real-time support with another. It is for this reason that Aidan founded Speakbox.
Speakbox is a first-of-its-kind digital mental health service that pairs online peer support with secure digital journaling and access to a library of evidence-based activities that can help users manage mental health with tactics that have been physician-approved. This month, the online portal is set to expand to an app that will be free for those seeking support through their mobile devices.
If as a country, we are truly committed to changing the state of mental health, it is imperative that we integrate new and innovative thinking set to promote patient empowerment and lead to improved health outcomes. This is a core focus for ACCESS 2022, Canada Health Infoway’s movement for nationwide digital health. Speakbox is an early partner in this initiative and is helping bring together the collective expertise of an agile technology sector, the knowledge base of health system experts, and insights and experiences of patients and caregivers, to ultimately meet and exceed the demands of Canadians in the 21st century.
So, are the experts right about social media — should Canadians log off for the sake of our mental health? Sometimes yes. However, the power of connection and the information that can be accessed because of digital advancement in health has more positive than negative attributes.
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Michael Green is a strong leader and a creative, strategic thinker who has an international reputation and a proven track record of transforming health care through the use of digital health. He has leveraged international research and innovation to advance the digital health agenda, create jobs and stimulate economic growth in Canada. Michael has been President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway since August 2014.