COVID-19 pandemic has adversely and disproportionately impacted people suffering from mental health issues and substance use problems. This has been exacerbated by social isolation during the pandemic and the social stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorders, making people reluctant to share their struggles and seek help. Due to the anonymity and privacy they provide, social media emerged as a convenient medium for people to share their experiences about their day to day struggles. Reddit is a well-recognized social media platform that provides focused and structured forums called subreddits, that users subscribe to and discuss their experiences with others. Temporal assessment of the topical correlation between social media postings about mental health/substance use and postings about Coronavirus is crucial to better understand public sentiment on the pandemic and its evolving impact, especially related to vulnerable populations. In this study, we conduct a longitudinal topical analysis of postings between subreddits r/depression, r/Anxiety, r/SuicideWatch, and r/Coronavirus, and postings between subreddits r/opiates, r/OpiatesRecovery, r/addiction, and r/Coronavirus from January 2020 - October 2020. Our results show a high topical correlation between postings in r/depression and r/Coronavirus in September 2020. Further, the topical correlation between postings on substance use disorders and Coronavirus fluctuates, showing the highest correlation in August 2020. By monitoring these trends from platforms such as Reddit, epidemiologists, and mental health professionals can gain insights into the challenges faced by communities for targeted interventions.
& Thirunarayan, K.
(2020). COVID-19 and Mental Health/Substance Use Disorders on Reddit: A Longitudinal Study. Pattern Recognition. ICPR International Workshops and Challenges, 20-27.