A new study published this month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research suggests that some subreddits are helping people dealing with depression and other mental health issues come out of their shells.
“Despite the possible language impairment faced by members of mental health communities, their real-life communication challenges are unknown,” the authors wrote. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to show mental health community members’ written communication challenges occurring in the real world using social media.”
But they also found that over time, members’ posts on these subreddits became more coherent. And while the improvements were seen across all the subreddits, save for r/happy, they might be especially valuable for people struggling with their mental health.
“I want to stress the value of emotional and information support that are provided by your peers through social media platforms like Reddit,” lead author Albert Park said. “Social media may not be perfect but it has its value in helping people in the context of health.”
“Designing features of online mental health communities for the purpose of improving written communication can enhance the everyday life of individuals suffering from mental conditions,” according to the study.
The largest mental health themed subreddit, r/depression, has existed for over 8 years and has over 300,000 subscribers.