Leveraging social media to explore the barriers to treatment among individuals with depressive symptoms

Hannah Szlyk, John Deng, Christine Xu, Melissa J. Krauss, Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Individuals with depression may not seek treatment for their symptoms due to several types of barriers to treatment. In support of the growing research on mental health care access and the role of social media, this study aimed to increase knowledge of these barriers among social media users. Methods: Participants were recruited from several social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, and online depression forums. Eligible participants had endorsed having posted about feeling sad or depressed on social media, or followed social media groups that post about depression-related topics. Participants completed an online survey about their depression symptoms, interest in treatment, and potential barriers to accessing treatment. Results: Of the participants reaching criteria for depression, those with major depression were more likely to seek out treatment, to report an unmet need for treatment, and have a higher risk of suicide. For participants with major depression, barriers to treatment were more likely to be attitudinal, while participants with mild depression experienced more structural barriers. Conclusions: This study demonstrates several barriers to treatment that occur for individuals struggling with depression, and that online platforms are effective mediums to recruit individuals with depression symptoms who seek mental health support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-465
Number of pages8
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • barriers
  • depression
  • mental health
  • social media


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