COVID-19, Digital Media, and Health| Communicating About Mental Health During a Pandemic: An Examination of Active and Aware Publics on Twitter

Jesse King, Audrey Halversen, Olivia Morrow, Whitney Westhoff, Pamela Brubaker


With the arrival of COVID-19, several U.S. states enacted stay-at-home orders to mitigate spread, but the isolation of quarantine and the uncertainty surrounding the virus were likely to have a detrimental influence on mental health. This study investigates how people discussed COVID-19 in relation to mental health on Twitter. Using Crimson Hexagon, this research examines tweets (N = 2,199,625) for three months following the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States and includes a quantitative analysis of the public’s concern about the disease as well as a qualitative thematic analysis of conversations on the topic (n = 800). Results indicate that those who discuss mental health online behave as an active and aware public that recognizes how mental health can be affected during a health crisis. The quantitative analysis shows that when cases of the disease increased, mentions of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychologists also increased. Additionally, as deaths related to the disease increased, so did mentions of psychologists. Qualitative statistics indicate that this public makes a concerted effort to provide social support and solidarity for others.


mental health, situational theory of publics, health communication, Twitter, active publics

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