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Twitter can be used to track all kinds of trends, from a “who wore it best?” during awards season, to hot button topics all across the political spectrum, but what many don’t realize is the sheer amount of just what this social media platform is able to do in regards to mental health. During the course of any given day, over 500,000,000 new tweets are composed from around the globe, tweets sharing all types of personal information, and Johns Hopkins University have found a way to use Twitter trends to help track both physical and mental health.

In previous years, Johns Hopkins researchers out of Baltimore, Maryland, have used Twitter trends to track flu cases in different areas, as Twitter users use the platform to express how they may be feeling once the flu reaches them, their family, or their particular area. Using the same methods used to track the flu, these same researchers are confident that they can turn this method into a way to track mental health as well.

The Hub, where Johns Hopkins University publishes their different research papers, explains just what the university does to pinpoint and track mental health in various areas across the United States or the globe. Through sifting through tweets mentioning a particular specific diagnosis, or tweets containing one of a myriad of mental health buzzwords, the university is able to collect various pieces of data regarding disorders such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and a plethora of other mental health concerns.

This method is specifically being used to track and find correlations in different geographical locations when it comes to mental health, and to use these statistics to gauge where the overall mental health of an area may stand. Some rather eye-opening trends have already been found, and these statistics are slated to improve as researchers gain more experience using the technology and method. For instance, higher rates of PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, have been found on military bases, and areas with a higher rate of unemployment have been found to also carry a higher rate of depression.

At NAMI, we’re excited to see what this type of research can do in the realm of mental health, and how these findings will relate to improvements being made for those suffering. By finding patterns in certain locations that relate to mental health conditions, medical science can gain a firmer grasp on some of the biggest contributing factors of mental illnesses, and this can lead to an ability to find solutions even better.


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