Why Cleveland Clinic answered TikTok's call on mental health

When young people search for information on mental health, they might turn to TikTok before Google. 

The hashtag "mental health" has been searched on the platform more than 67 million times, according to a February report from CBS News, and 1 in 6 teenagers report using the social media site as a search engine for topics they want more information on. 

Leopoldo Pozuelo, MD, chair of psychology and psychiatry at Cleveland Clinic, told Becker's TikTok is where people are searching for information on mental health. 

"You know the famous Willie Sutton quote: Why did he rob banks? 'Because that's where the money is.' I think this is very true as far as where people are going for information, especially the young folks," Dr. Pozuelo said. 

In October, Cleveland Clinic announced a partnership with TikTok to provide reliable information when users search for mental health topics on the platform. 

Once the partnership with TikTok is fully rolled out, users searching for information on more than 40 neurological conditions will be directed to information from Cleveland Clinic and the National Institute of Mental Health. 

"I think this opportunity in partnership with TikTok made sense, because this is where, especially with the increased visibility of mental health, a lot of folks are going for some initial information, and we thought it was a great partnership to provide reliable information based on facts, not fiction," Dr. Pozuelo said. 

According to an October 2022 New York Times report, some teenagers turn to TikTok for information on mental health, sometimes using the platform to self-diagnose specific behavioral health conditions. 

The number of people experiencing poor mental health has grown since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, according to the CDC. In October 2023, 34.2% of adults reported symptoms of depression or anxiety. In 2019, this number was 10.8%. 

In 2021, 42% of high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, up from 37% in 2019, according to CDC data. 

The "silver lining" of this trend is increased awareness of mental health, and in some ways, reduced stigma around asking for help, Dr. Pozuelo said. 

"People want to be resourceful, and they want to do things on their own, which I think is good in getting those self-assessments and getting correct information. I think the stigma is less, and that's been a positive aspect of that," he said. "There's still pockets of areas where there's misinformation about the treatment, there's misinformation about the diagnoses." 

Dr. Pozuelo said some patients are taking note of Cleveland Clinic's presence on TikTok, and colleagues have positive feedback on the effort. 

"There's been some very positive commentaries from our colleagues here in Cleveland, from the other hospital systems. Again, everybody's in the interest of getting the right information," Dr. Pozuelo said 

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