The Maine Therapist Destigmatizing Mental Health on TikTok
With nearly 350,000 followers, Kristen Gingrich addresses difficult subjects with lighthearted videos and candor.
When Kristen Gingrich first created a TikTok account in 2020, she says it was just for “making stupid videos.” But after she saw other therapists using the social media platform to talk about mental health, she realized she could use it to break down some stigmas and show people that therapists can struggle with the same things their clients do. “At the beginning of the pandemic, we were watching people’s mental health start to deteriorate from being isolated, being chronically anxious about what was going to happen in our world,” Gingrich says. “I thought it was a great platform to give education and humor and destigmatize talking about our mental health and going to therapy. It just took off.” Gingrich, who is a licensed clinical social worker for a Maine community mental health agency, now has nearly 350,000 followers under her TikTok handle @notyouraveragethrpst. Most of her videos are light-hearted, but she often addresses serious mental health topics and shares details about her own struggles, including past trauma. “I’m not my followers’ therapist,” Gingrich says. “So I’m a little bit more candid on TikTok than I am in my own therapy sessions with my clients, because that’s not the place for me to be candid. Therapists are human. We go through struggles, too.”
How would you describe your audience?
A lot of the people that follow me are individuals who struggle with their mental health. They’re people who haven’t been seen throughout their life or are feeling lonely. They’re people who are just looking for a way to not struggle anymore. The people who follow me are people who are just looking for something positive in the world and tired of seeing crappy stuff on their feed. And sometimes they’re just looking for a really good, relatable laugh and a place where they can just be human.
How did you develop your voice and style on TikTok?
I showed up, from day one, like myself, so it wasn’t really hard. It has changed over time. I’ve just gotten better at content creation. I’ve gotten better at knowing what my followers want. I’ve gotten better at knowing what I want and what I want my page to stand for. But I showed up from day one as exactly who I am. And so that made it easy.
What do you want your page to stand for?
I just want my page to say that you never have to go through something alone, that there is always someone out there—even if it’s a stranger, there’s always someone out there. And, even though in a world of, what, seven billion people, we may feel alone, there’s someone out there who’s going through something absolutely similar. And knowing that even the people who you think have it together most likely don’t.
What is the biggest misconception people have about therapy?
That therapists will fix you, that you’ll come into therapy and magically be better, which can happen, but requires work. I don’t think people realize how much work is done outside of therapy. You can come to therapy one hour a week and just do the work in therapy, but you’re not going to get very far. It requires you taking that stuff that you learned in therapy and actually doing it on the outside, or at least trying. The other one is that we get paid to care. I hate that. When I hear that, I’m like, “Yeah, I do get paid to care in a way, because it’s my job. But if I didn’t want to do this job, if I didn’t want to care about people, I would’ve been an accountant or something that doesn’t require me to do emotion.” We’re in this job because we do care about people, and we do care about our clients.
There have been studies that have shown the negative effects social media can have on people’s mental health, especially among young people. As a whole, do you think social media is positive or negative for people’s mental health?
I think it’s how you use it. I think if you are following accounts that make you feel bad and make you constantly compare yourself and make you wonder if you’re doing things right, of course it’s not going to be good. Of course you’re going to wake up and not like yourself, because you’re comparing yourself to photos and aesthetics of people that are curated. I think it’s harder for younger kids because of where they’re at in their brain development and just not being able to separate some of those nuances that older teens and adults can separate. But it’s neither good nor bad. It’s how you use it. Unfollow the accounts that you don’t like or that make you feel like crap. I do that frequently. Follow the accounts that bring you joy. That’s how you make it positive.
It seems like there’s been a shift in recent years to people talking more openly about going to therapy. What do you think led to that?
It’s still very stigmatized, but people are talking about mental health more. It’s being encouraged, being talked about in school. We’re watching things like suicide rates rapidly increase. We’re watching depression and anxiety in teens rapidly increase. I think it’s being talked about more because the younger generations are talking about it more. Gen Z will change the mental health world. We have our grandparents who are whispering, “Oh my god, she goes to therapy.” And then you have Gen Z, who are like, “Yeah, I go to therapy.” Then the millennials and Gen Xers are kind of in the middle a little bit. But I think it’s just that people are so sick of suffering in silence. They’re so sick of feeling alone. It’s becoming more societally acceptable and not shameful to ask for help and say, “Hey, I can’t do this on my own.”
For people who are struggling with any kind of mental health issues, especially anxiety or depression, what’s the initial advice you give them?
If you’re willing to acknowledge it and you’re willing to make a change, you don’t have to hit rock bottom to start looking for help. You don’t have to wait till it becomes unmanageable to ask for help. You can ask for help when you first start seeing the bubbles, like the bubbles of anxiety. When you start seeing things perk up, ask for help, because then we do what we call preventative work. We do preventative versus treatment. But we’re so stuck in a world that holds treatment over prevention, that says we shouldn’t go to the doctor unless it’s really bad. Like, “Oh, well, I’m just kind of feeling sad every once in a while. That’s not enough to go to a therapist.” No, if you want to go to therapy, go to therapy. We talk about anything, I promise you, anything. If you are even thinking about it, and you have the means to do it, do it.
If you or someone you know is having a behavioral health crisis, call the Maine Crisis Hotline at 1.888.568.1112 (voice) or 711 (Maine Relay Service).
For mental health peer-to-peer phone support for adults in Maine, call the Intentional Warm Line at 1.866.771.9276.
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