Living with depression can feel like a lonely experience. The internet can be a helpful tool to connect you with others going through something similar.
Jarred Keller struggled with depression for years before he first started going to a therapist. Speaking with a professional was an important part of accepting and addressing his mental health. But even then, it would take time — and additional work — before he felt comfortable speaking about depression openly.
Eventually, it was a life altering event that catalyzed him to open up.
When Keller lost a close friend to suicide in 2021, he decided it was time to help normalize depression and create more awareness.
“We don’t talk about it, even if our situation is serious,” Keller says. “People struggle for so long and never get any help.”
Keller took to social media to get the word out. He dedicated himself to transparency and honesty, and he found that Instagram helped him connect with others who were going through something similar.
The response was overwhelming and a bit surprising.
“When I first started doing this on social media, I’d post something, then put my phone away, worried about what people would say about me,” Keller says. “The crazy thing is that everyone’s super supportive. Now, I tell people that if they’re more open, they might be surprised by how many people support you through what you’re dealing with.”
Keller’s positive experience on Instagram might seem like an outlier, given the complexity of social media use and mental health. But when used properly, technology can foster connection and help those experiencing stigmatized conditions.
For example, a 2015 study found that after 10 weeks in an online depression support group, participants experienced a decrease in their symptoms and self-stigma.
A 2017 study suggested that online social networks have a positive impact on cancer patients experiencing depression.
Of course, the manner in which we use social media and technology is a big factor. Engaging with a network of like-minded individuals can provide support and encouragement. That doesn’t mean that poring over a feed of carefully curated photos or doom-scrolling through news headlines will provide the same positive effect.
Keller’s initial success on Instagram led him to engage further, and in a short time, he attracted over 8,000 followers and showed the power of vulnerability to countless members of the community.
Now, Keller is bringing his strength and dedication to the Bezzy Depression platform, where he serves as a guide for the community and helps others open up and enjoy the benefits he’s experienced.
“People talk about things in more detail” on the Bezzy app, Keller says. “A lot of conversations online are on the surface, but everyone knows the obvious sh*t, like ‘go walk in the sun.’ I like how on Bezzy people get into the 50 little parts of their experience — that’s what I connect with.”
Keller appreciates the emphasis on personal stories and feels that Bezzy’s holistic approach is a refreshing change.
“It’s really cool to engage with people who are going through the same thing as you,” Keller says. “When you root others on, you give yourself accountability. I owe it to myself to try and manage this, not just wallow.”
Dani De Boulay has also found important support through technology and online communities.
After a series of disconcerting professional experiences left her feeling like “something wasn’t quite right” — including when the leaders of the nonprofit where she worked were flying to Florida during the pandemic — De Boulay decided to reflect on every aspect of her life.
She began consciously exploring her “own personal heart,” her personality, and her manner of working with others. She began seeing a therapist and was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression.
She also began building a community of people who could help each other, including an online “mental health sisterhood” where women come together over Zoom to support one another and share professional hardships and successes.
“Online communities are so underrated,” De Boulay says. “With everything going on in our lives, online and virtual spaces can allow us to keep those important connections.”
Like Keller, De Boulay is now a community guide with Bezzy Depression. She enjoys perusing the forums and has loved the open-mindedness of those who participate.
“With Bezzy, people don’t judge each other,” De Boulay says.
For both De Boulay and Keller, perhaps the most valuable part of Bezzy Depression, and other forms of online support, is the acknowledgment that we are not alone.
“I hope that Bezzy Depression can be a stepping stone for people who are nervous to say, ‘I have depression,’” De Boulay says. “It’s for people who wonder if there are others who feel the same way.”
It’s not a simple or easy task to open up about something that feels so personal and intimate, but speaking from the other side, Keller believes it’s ultimately for the best.
“It’s scary, it’s terrifying, but I promise you, it’ll get better once you open up,” Keller says.
Medically reviewed on July 13, 2022
Have thoughts or suggestions about this article? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.