Promoting Positive Mental Health during COVID-19 Lockdown

1 Deputy Editor, Journal of Mental Health Education 1Assistant Professor, Department of Mental Health Education, NIMHANS

2 Associate Professor, Department of Mental Health Education, NIMHANS, Bangalore

3 Department of Mental Health Education, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, India

4 Department of Mental Health Education, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, India

5 Department of Mental Health Education, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, India

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*Author of Correspondence: Dr. Latha K, Assistant Professor, Department of Mental Health Education, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, India

E-mail: latha12k@gmail.com

Abstract:
The global health crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic and associated unfamiliar public health measures such as quarantine and lockdown demands spreading of health messages to address the emotional distress of people across the globe. Social media platforms are exponentially used in this era of virtual communication for promotion of health and communication of health messages to the public. To describe the effectiveness of social media campaign to enhance positive mental health of public users during the COVID-19 lockdown period. This qualitative study describes the effectiveness of ‘Being a Mental Health Warrior’, an online social media campaign in Facebook with aim to deliver positive mental health message to public and destigmatise attitude of communities towards those affected by COVID-19. The campaign was an activity in which short videos of 38 Indian and International participants on how they manage their mental health and stay positive during the lockdown period were posted in Facebook. The campaign had a substantial reach to the targeted population. Following the campaign, the post reached to 48.1k people and had 72% new page likes and 48% new post engagements. The post campaign survey was conducted and the average overall score was above 4.5 on a 5 point likert scale. The online Social media campaign was effective in spreading positive messages to enhance mental health. Need based online communication enables to blend in with lives of followers and thereby enhance positive coping response.

The global health crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic and associated unfamiliar public health measures such as quarantine and lockdown demands spreading of health messages to address the emotional distress of people across the globe. Social media platforms are exponentially used in this era of virtual communication for promotion of health and communication of health messages to the public. To describe the effectiveness of social media campaign to enhance positive mental health of public users during the COVID-19 lockdown period. This qualitative study describes the effectiveness of ‘Being a Mental Health Warrior’, an online social media campaign in Facebook with aim to deliver positive mental health message to public and destigmatise attitude of communities towards those affected by COVID-19. The campaign was an activity in which short videos of 38 Indian and International participants on how they manage their mental health and stay positive during the lockdown period were posted in Facebook. The campaign had a substantial reach to the targeted population. Following the campaign, the post reached to 48.1k people and had 72% new page likes and 48% new post engagements. The post campaign survey was conducted and the average overall score was above 4.5 on a 5 point likert scale. The online Social media campaign was effective in spreading positive messages to enhance mental health. Need based online communication enables to blend in with lives of followers and thereby enhance positive coping response.

Introduction

The use of internet for communication and sharing of ideas have been predominant since 1979. The era of social media has begun with a social networking site named ‘Open Diary’ founded by Bruce and Susan Abelson, which connected online diary writers together as a community. Later the term social media has been coined with the creation of Myspace in 2003 and Facebook in 2004[1]. With the rise of generation of digital natives, people have developed substantial technical knowledge and interests to engage online.

According to Media richness theory [2], the goal of any communication is the resolution of ambiguity and the reduction of uncertainty. Another theory of social presence [3], defines the influence of communication over the partners of communication. The higher the social presence, the larger the social influence that the communication partners have on each other’s behaviour. Social networking sites provide substantial social presence and media richness [1].

Facebook is one of the largest and popular social networking platforms today, with 1.66 billion mean daily active users in 2019, with an addition of 9% year-over-year [4]. Facebook offers an online space for creation and exchange of user generated information. Facebook has been widely employed as a medium to create awareness and share messages to gain people’s participation with their comments, likes and engagements. This also has been used as a discussion platform to understand opinions of the users and followers of the webpage [5].

There are some major factors to be considered for ensuring effective communication of messages [6]. Choosing the target group to be reached and the message to be communicated is significant. Appropriateness and freshness of messages need to be also ensured for effective communication. In addition, justifying the benefits for people and allowing access of the posts to larger public is crucial. It is also of utmost importance to address their expectations, in particular, what they would like to listen, what they might find interesting and what they consider as valuable [1].

Evidence show that COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown had profound effects over mental health of communities [7]. The situation has been threatening and caused emotional distress and mental health crisis for many. Various misconceptions about the disease fuelled stigma and discriminatory attitudes among communities towards people who were affected with the pandemic. Infodemic had adverse effects over mental health than the pandemic itself because of inaccuracies and conspiracies spread through media, including social media.

In order to fight this panic and stressful situation due to the uncertainty of the effects of the pandemic, spreading awareness of measures to enhance positive coping is crucial. Sensitive and effective communication on such measures has an impact over mental wellbeing of communities [6]. Hence, this paper describes the effectiveness of an online social media campaign to spread positive mental health messages and destigmatise the attitudes of communities towards those affected by COVID-19.

Methodology

This cross sectional study describes the effectiveness of ‘Being a Mental Health Warrior’, an online social media campaign in Facebook, initiated with objective to deliver positive mental health message to public and destigmatise attitude of communities towards those affected by COVID-19. The campaign was an activity during which short videos of 1-2 minutes duration sent by 38 participants on how they managed their mental health and stayed positive during the lockdown period were posted on Facebook. The campaign began in mid of April 2020 and ended in May 2020. Anyone willing and consented could participate in this campaign by sending their short videos. The participants broadly included pre-schooler and school children, adolescents, homemakers, professionals from various backgrounds such as academicians, health workers, yoga practitioners, media professionals, musicians, dancers, artists, writers, NGO representatives and even was inclusive of a pet dog. There were both national and International participants who took part in the campaign. The videos were screened for audio and video clarity before posting in Facebook. A post campaign survey was also conducted to assess the overall effectiveness of the campaign and scoring was done on a 5 point likert scale. The likes, comments and reach of the posts were analysed as frequency & proportions.

Results

The results indicate that the campaign had a substantial reach to the targeted population. Following the campaign, the post reached to 48.1k users. There was 72% increase of new page likes and 13.3K(48%) posts engagements. The post of Karnataka based Radio Jockey was the most reached to 16K users in the month of April. Her message to viewers was “Radio in my blood…music in my veins… fitness in my sweat….”

Table showing the approximate reach of the posts in Facebook

In the month of May, the post of a child from UK was the most reached to 8.6K users. The child spread a message to engage in one’s works with love and passion. Along with her online academic classes, the child engages in her hobbies like playing piano, dancing, drama and acting, playing indoor games.

Another post of a pre-schooler child was one of the warriors with popular reached posts of

  • The child engages in fun activities which he loves such as painting, indoor games, playing keyboard and acting by staying at home. As a warrior, he shares the message that in spite of getting worried, he feels that he is doing good for society.

One of the most engaged post with 1 K post engagements was that of a Dubai based working professional who turned a small indoor space at his apartment into a mini garden during the lockdown. As a warrior, he and his family, particularly his 4 years little kid is engaged in watering, lifting, carrying and digging in the garden and improve motor skills.

The campaign was inclusive that a pet from Princeton, New Jersey was one of the mental health warriors, no less than humans. As a warrior, the dog is engaged in weaning off humans from watching TV news on COVID-19 by its Instagram Page. The dog demonstrates love and care for its fellow beings through wagging tail. The dog also enjoys having icecream, instead of worrying, like some human beings.

The posts also received good comments and response from users. A viewer wrote, “Parents understanding and encouragement are very good in their creations and day-to-day activities.” The post of a warrior, a Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, De Montfort University, U.K. on how to manage children’s queries about COVID-19 and make

them feel safe and secured during these unprecedented circumstances was commented as “well explained” and “excellent” by viewers. Another viewer commented, “I loved that title- Mental Health Warrior!! So Apt!”

 

 

 

Sl. Warrior No. Type of

Participant

Message
1. Mental Health Warrior No.4 Child The virtue of resilience will help to

come out of this unprecedented crisis

2. Mental Health Warrior No.5 Adolescent Books can engage and make oneself

positive and energetic

3. Mental Health Warrior No.9 Children Fighting this time with new passion and

interests is important

4. Mental Health Warrior No.13 Child Jotting down the interests, switching the activities and engaging in academic activities, along with other activities

help to reduce boredom

5. Mental Health Warrior No.18 Child Engaging in fun things gives happiness and staying home is important for own

good and for society

6. Mental Health Warrior No.20 Adolescent Involving recycling

productive

in and creative artworks ways helps  

to

like be
7. Mental Health Warrior No.22 Child Spending time on hobbies and doing the

activities with love helps to stay positive

8. Mental Health Warrior No.39 Adolescent Creativity through artworks help one to

feel positive and uplifted

Sample Messages of Posts by Children and Adolescents

 

 

 

 

Sl. Warrior No. Type of

Participant

Message
1 Mental Health Warrior No.6 Adult Listening to authentic information and stories of recovered people help to be

calm

2 Mental Health Warrior No.7 Adult Spending time with family and practicing

meditation helps to keep mind healthy

3 Mental Health Warrior No.8 Adult Starting a new hobby and keeping oneself

busy helps to have sound mind

4 Mental Health Warrior No.14 Adult Engaging kids in meaningful activities can help to reduce their anxiety. Caring neighbours and communities help to stay

positive with a sense of togetherness

5 Mental Health Warrior No.17 Adult Yoga and relaxation techniques helps in maintaining inner peace and keep mind

and body in sync.

6 Mental Health Warrior No.36 Adult Spreading positive messages to resolve

mental conflicts of fellow beings will

help to build stronger communities
7 Mental Health Warrior No.32 Adult Engaging in Sketching, writing poetry and similar creative activities help

oneself to be mentally healthy

8 Mental Health Warrior No.37 Adult Spending time on what someone loves

like gardening helps to relieve stress

Sample Messages of Posts by Adults

 

 

Overall, the participants had various passions like drawing, painting, doodling, craftworks using recycled materials, content writing, calligraphy, movie making, acting, poetry, nature photography, gardening, cooking, having favourite dishes, music, dance, fitness, yoga, meditation and taking care of loved ones.

The post campaign survey was also conducted to assess the overall effectiveness of the campaign and scoring was done on a 5 point likert scale. Around 32 participants took part in this survey and the average overall score was more than 4.5 for all the questions. Details of the survey questions and average responses are given below.

Sl.No Survey Question Average score
1. The campaign was highly beneficial in sharing

ways to deal with the uncertainties of pandemic.

4.53
2. The campaign was helpful to develop a positive

attitude towards people quarantined or affected with COVID-19 and those facing stigma because of it.

4.56
3. It motivated and helped me adopt ways to enhance

my mental health.

4.46
4. The campaign was successful in achieving its goal

of spreading positive and destigmatizing messages

4.56
5. If given an opportunity, I would like to take part in

such campaigns in the future.

4.65
6. Social media can be a great platform to start campaigns and spread positive messages related to

the pandemic.

4.84

Discussion

 

The online social media campaign was found to be effective in engaging people actively from the community remotely. As the mental health warriors have been from various professions known and unknown to the public could reach out in the society to a larger extent. The campaign could connect to people as everybody were overcoming similar crisis during the

COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent physical distancing measures. A similar study which evaluated the effectiveness of a series social media campaigns shows that using social media to promote mental health is an effective initiative.[8] Mental health promotion has become easily viable through social media platform as these platforms are accessible to everyone 24/7. Social media is an emerging tool in mental health promotion. On the other hand, social media campaigns have some limitations also. One challenge could be lack of a system which filters out the authenticity and credibility of data published through social media platforms. The unverified data can mislead people. [9] Illiteracy may cause people to be unable to access social media campaigns and retrieve the positives of such campaigns. [10] The commitment and effort required are very less for social media campaigns. This can minimize the effectiveness of such campaigns.[11]Social media campaigns are prone to merits and demerits, but considering social media’s vast reach and accessibility mental health promotion through social media is to be considered effective.

Conclusion

 

The online Social media campaign is effective in spreading positive messages to enhance mental health. The campaign helped to understand people’s personalised ways of coping during the lockdown subsequent to pandemic, which is of paramount significance. Identifying own strengths and focusing on the aspects under one’s control is found to be important for mitigating difficulties under these stressful circumstances. Need based online communication enables to blend in with lives of people and thereby enhance their positive coping responses.

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