Under Pressure: Memes for Stress Relief? Check Out Our Collection!

Dr. Serenity
April 14, 2023

As COVID-19 forced people into isolation, millennials and Gen Z members turned to social media to connect and share COVID-19 memes. Jade Perraud, a 24-year-old Montreal resident, found solace in sharing COVID-related memes on TikTok with her friends. Perraud is not alone, as many others in her age group formed online communities to share memes during the pandemic. Discover the trend of COVID-19 memes among millennials and Gen Z, including the popular Facebook group Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens, which was created by college students unable to attend in-person classes.

How COVID-19 Memes Helped People Cope: New Study Reveals

Memes were more than just a source of entertainment during the pandemic. According to a 2021 study in the Psychology of Popular Media, COVID-19 memes played a crucial role in supporting people’s mental health. The study, which included 748 participants, found that those who viewed memes with COVID-19 captions experienced decreased levels of COVID-related stress and increased information processing, leading to better coping skills. Memes also had a positive effect on participants’ mood and sense of humor compared to other types of social media content.

The Therapeutic Power of Memes: How They Helped People Cope During the Pandemic

Memes have been a go-to for many people during the pandemic, offering a way to connect and express shared experiences. But what makes them so therapeutic? According to Jessica Myrick, PhD, the lead author of a 2021 study on the topic, memes provide a creative outlet and a way to feel less alone.

The study, which involved 748 participants, found that COVID-related memes with informative captions helped reduce stress levels and increase coping abilities. The popularity of COVID-19 memes has also helped to normalize mental health struggles, making it easier for people like Jade Perraud to share their experiences.

Meme-sharing forums have become a popular way for people to connect with others who share similar experiences and feelings. Myrick explains that positive emotions, such as those elicited by humorous memes, are key to building social capital and community.

Overall, memes have provided a much-needed sense of community and levity during an incredibly challenging time.

How Memes Can Help Those with Mental Health Conditions

Memes can be a valuable tool for coping with difficult emotions and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, even beyond the pandemic. For instance, Jade Perraud, who lives with depression, finds solace in memes to manage the stress of being a college student.

One popular Instagram account, @mytherapistsays, offers a wealth of memes with nearly seven million followers who can relate to needing therapy or dealing with mental health issues like seasonal depression.

Research indicates that certain types of memes can be helpful for individuals with mental health conditions. A study published in Scientific Reports in January 2020 found that individuals with depression respond positively to negatively oriented memes, or memes that take a humorous approach to negative situations or experiences, more than those without depression. The researchers attribute this to a sense of peer support from others with similar symptoms.

“People experiencing anxiety and depression often turn to social media as a way to communicate and adapt to an uncertain situation, a concept that has been observed during the current pandemic,” explains Umair Akram, PhD, the corresponding author of the study and a psychology lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK.

Going beyond laughter: Memes as a tool for mental health advocacy and awareness.

Memes aren’t just for entertainment – they can also serve as an effective tool to help people with mental health issues communicate and open up about their struggles to those around them.

Brooke Knisley, a 31-year-old comedy writer in New York City, who lives with a traumatic brain injury, finds that memes – whether focused on COVID-19 or another serious issue like mental health – can be an excellent way to break the ice.

“It’s a good coping mechanism, and making jokes and memes about these weighty topics are a means of opening up conversations,” Knisley says.

Natalie Pennington, PhD, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, explains that sharing a meme can be easier for some people than telling family members or friends outright about mental health struggles.

“Increasingly, memes and technology have facilitated more open discussion, so it might be easier for someone to share a joke to sort of say, ‘Hey, this is something that affects me, too,’” says Dr. Pennington.

Memes provide a level of anonymity that allows people to express themselves without feeling the pressure of having to disclose too much about themselves. This can help people start conversations about their mental health without feeling judged or stigmatized.

According to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in 2018, memes can also provide a sense of validation for those struggling with mental health issues. The study found that memes can provide a way for people to share their experiences and connect with others going through similar struggles.

“Memes help people feel less alone,” says Pennington. “They help to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues by making people feel like they’re part of a larger community.”

The Pros and Cons of Using Memes for Mental Health

Memes can be a powerful tool in helping people open up about their mental health struggles, but they are not a cure-all solution. While they can create connections within communities and provide an avenue for discussion, they should not be used to substitute affordable and accessible mental health care. In addition, memes can have drawbacks, including the spread of misinformation and the potential for triggering those with mental health concerns.

  • Memes Shouldn’t Replace Mental Health Care

Although memes can offer a means of sharing experiences and fostering a sense of community, they should not be seen as a replacement for professional mental health care. As Dr. Natalie Pennington, an assistant professor of communication studies, notes, there are still many people who cannot access mental health treatment or do not have someone to talk to offline. While memes may help bring attention to the issue, they do not offer a long-term solution.

  • Memes and Misinformation

One of the potential drawbacks of memes is the spread of misinformation. In particular, memes related to the COVID-19 vaccine have been used to spread false information, such as the suggestion that vaccines cause autism. It is important for people to be aware of the accuracy of health information contained in memes before sharing them.

  • Being Mindful of Content

Dr. Myrick encourages people to be mindful of the emotional impact that memes can have, particularly on those with mental health concerns. While memes can be used to make light of serious topics, it is important to ensure that they do not contain inaccurate or harmful information. As Brooke Knisley, a comedy writer with a traumatic brain injury, suggests, individuals should assess the potential harm of a meme before sharing it.

  • Personal Responsibility in Creating and Sharing Memes

Knisley emphasizes that individuals have a personal responsibility in creating and sharing memes. While memes can be a means of starting conversations and creating connections, it is important to ensure that they are not hurtful or offensive. People should take the time to assess the potential harm of a meme before putting it out into the world.


Moving Beyond Memes: What Comes Next if You Need Mental Health Help?

Although memes may offer some temporary relief from stress and negative emotions, they cannot replace professional therapy or other forms of mental health support. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue, it is important to seek appropriate help. Here are some options you can consider:

  • Sliding-Scale Therapy: Some mental health professionals offer sliding-scale fees based on an individual’s income, which can make therapy more affordable and accessible to those who need it.
  • Online Therapy: Virtual therapy apps such as Talkspace and BetterHelp can be more cost-effective and flexible in terms of scheduling than traditional in-person therapy.
  • In-Person or Virtual Support Groups: Organizations like the Anxiety and Depression Association of America provide listings of support groups that can offer a safe and supportive environment for individuals to connect with others who share similar experiences and challenges.
Author Dr. Serenity

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