To research and gain insight into how mental health is portrayed, discussed and talked about on the social media platform, a web scraping exercise was undertaken on the Twitter website. It reaped interesting results and observations as Twitter is used by people with different objectives. These include individuals who choose to post on twitter their personal stories or comments about ongoing social issues, some celebrities or ‘officials’ choose it to portray only the positive sides of themselves or some as a way of simply using it as an easy network to connect with people and follow (or sometimes cyber stalk) other people.
To start with a general idea first, my twitter rule using the google sheets web scraper was the words ‘mental health’ written in English, anywhere in the world. The results were immense – up to 10,000 before I had to stop incase the page crashed. Despite the overflow, I did find some interesting posts and how mental health is talked about.
Some were supportive organisations or individuals posting links, photos and other sources to help raise awareness of mental health which then people chose to retweet or comment on. These friendly and approachable tweets were easily found but the tweets I found most interesting were personal, raw and upfront tweets from individuals expressing themselves and their experience or opinion about mental health. To find these more personal stories, I added a rule to find tweets including the hashtag #mentalhealth.
*These posts which were possible to see as their account was on ‘public’ allowing anyone to be able to see what they post.
Going through these findings, it was noticeable that there were much more ‘organisations’ or ‘support pages’ posting links and photos than individuals who comment on their opinion or share their experience with the mental health issue which still highlights the big possibility of the stigma and taboo nature of mental health.
Written by Helen Chang