Depression is form of mental illness that affects millions of Americans. It is estimated that more than 300 million people worldwide meet the criteria for the condition. Those affected by the disorder are more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol, and experience suicidal ideations. In the field of addiction medicine, depression and substance use disorders often go hand in hand.

Depression “may” be more common with women. However, alcohol dependence rates are more than twice as high in men than women, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While women may experience depression and suicidal ideations more than men; males die by suicide more often than women. It is a clear sign of what can happen when depression goes untreated.

Some experts believe lower depression prevalence rates among men, with paradoxically higher suicide rates is troubling. Which could be evidence that male depression is often masked by patients and under-diagnosed by doctors. Men seemingly downplay their symptoms when speaking to mental health experts. With that in mind, how is a problem identified before it is too late? Particularly regarding self-medicating with drugs and alcohol or taking one’s life by suicide.

In the 21st Century, you would be hard-pressed to find a young adult without a smartphone. The same for a young adult who does not spend a significant amount of time using social media platforms. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are perhaps the most common social media accounts among young people. It is not uncommon for young people to posts things that could be construed as cries for help. In some cases, one’s social media peers will notice that something is awry and offer to help. However, with billions of social media users how can every case of untreated depression be identified.

Spotting Signs of Depression

Last year, Facebook announced the use of an algorithm that can comb users’ posts and identify people who may need help. Such users will be flagged, and a team will reach out to the individual in question. Connecting such users with mental health services. Facebook is not the only platform that could be used as a tool for identifying people in need of mental health services. Research indicates that Instagram also could be used as a mental health tool, identifying users with depression, The New York Times reports. The researchers used machine-learning tools that identify patterns in pictures, giving them a model for predicting depression. The findings were published in the journal EPJ Data Science.

A team of researchers looked at the posts of 166 people, with a total of 44,000 photos, according to the article. Of the pool, 71 Instagram users had a history of depression. Colors in a photo, the number of faces, likes and comments could all be used to identify a user with depression. Photos with more likes were associated with non-depressives, photos with more comments correlated with depression. The researchers believe that their tool could be used for conducting mental health screenings, down the road.

“People in our sample who were depressed tended to post photos that, on a pixel-by-pixel basis, were bluer, darker and grayer on average than healthy people,” said Andrew Reece, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University and co-author of the study with Christopher Danforth, a professor at the University of Vermont.

Depression and Addiction Treatment

Young adult males living with untreated depression are at great risk of misusing drugs and alcohol. In turn developing an alcohol and/or substance use disorder. When this occurs, it is paramount that both mental illness and a co-occurring use disorder are treated at the same time. Recovery from either condition is not possible without treating both.

If you are battling symptoms of depression and are dependent on mind altering substances, please contact Immersion Recovery Center. We can help.