Why Harvard, Cleveland Clinic are turning to TikTok for mental health education

Cleveland Clinic and Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston are trying to get more evidence-based mental health content on TikTok. 

When users search for terms such as depression, anxiety, autism or trauma on TikTok, they will be directed to information from Cleveland Clinic and the National Institute of Health. 

CBS News reported earlier this year that 1 in 6 Gen Zers use TikTok as a search engine. 

"Mental health has been a growing issue, and we know there has been an increase in online searches around this area, especially among young people. Therefore, it's important that people have access to credible health information on a variety of platforms, including TikTok," Leo Pozuelo, MD, chair of psychology and psychiatry at Cleveland Clinic, said in an Oct. 10 news release. 

In another effort to put reliable information on mental health on the platform, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health partnered with TikTok influencers who often post about mental health, The New York Times reported Oct. 16. Harvard provided creators with digital toolkits to help them integrate information on core themes such as intergenerational trauma, the effect of racism on mental health and climate anxiety into their videos. 

The effort resulted in 800,000 additional views for videos on these topics, according to the report. 

Some creators who participated in the study reported mixed results. Some influencers said videos incorporating Harvard's research did not garner as many views as other content they produced. 

Trey Tucker, a licensed mental health therapist with 1.1 million followers on the platform, told the Times this could be because of TikTok's algorithm. 

"They are not really trying to help spread good research," Mr. Tucker said. "They are trying to keep eyeballs engaged so they can keep watch times as long as possible and pass that on to advertisers." 

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