Three celebs share about mental health, social media, and why it matters so much to them.

Social media can have a significant effect on mental health, both in positive and negative ways.

Sometimes it’s a helpful lifeline for connection in times of need. Other times it can be a space for criticism, comparison, bullying, and trolling.

To tease out the good from the bad, Healthline spoke with three celebrities — Gabriella Wright, Colton Underwood, and Dan Payne — who feel strongly about social media and its effects on mental health.

They share their perspectives below.

Gabriella Wright is an actor and humanitarian who developed Never Alone, a mental well-being and suicide prevention initiative of the Chopra Foundation.

When her sister, Paulette, took her own life in 2018, Wright’s mission to help others touched by suicide was born.

A longtime student of Tibetan Buddhism and Vedanta, Wright is the creator of a collection of self-awareness tools for developing inner guidance, known as the Mental Hygiene Toolkit.

She’s also the annual host and co-founder of the Never Alone Summit, featuring 100-plus speakers who share tools for strength and resilience in the face of mental health concerns.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, help is out there. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 for free, confidential support 24/7.

Looking back at growing up

Wright was born in England and grew up in France. She spent rigorous 10-hour days at a French boarding school, where the only discussions about mental health were theoretical (think Jung and Freud).

Meanwhile, Wright and her classmates tried to balance the stressors of long school days, demanding homework, and the changes of adolescence. She notes that eating disorders were common.

“We all had body dysmorphia, especially the women and girls, because we all wanted to look good,” Wright shares. “And the truth is, that was normal. No one intervened. And social media didn’t even exist then.”

How do you relate to social media?

Wright describes her relationship with social media as “love and hate.”

“Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by what’s demanded of me as an actor,” she says. “The selfie phenomenon has taken us down a route where our identity and our values are lost.”

As a result, she’s committed to only promoting what’s real for her and what has value for viewers. She emphasizes posting with mindfulness and taking responsibility for the curation of content.

“Yes, I might not have millions of followers, but I stand for what I stand for, and that’s more important to me,” Wright says. “Right now I’ve found peace because I just do me.”

How do you hope to see social media change in the future?

Wright takes issue with content that shortens attention spans and favors sound-bite experiences.

“I remember being a youngster, running around and not having a phone and not having any kind of labeling in my mind and just free-playing … It felt timeless,” she says. “With these reels that are 3 seconds, everything is timed and everything has an expiration, and I think that’s where social anxiety comes in.”

Still, she has hope in emerging trends that emphasize values over self-promotion.

“We’re migrating from our selfies to what we stand for,” she says. “I’m very, very grateful that we’re moving toward art, creativity, and community, and that’s where I think the solution lies for all of our younger generations.”

A message to her younger self

When asked what her message to her younger self might be, Wright says she would emphasize trust.

“I would tell myself to trust the journey of life,” she says. “That journey has incredible valleys and mountains. It’s hard to walk up a mountain, but it’s that moment when you pause and catch your breath that you look at your surroundings and feel grateful, and you look at things differently.”

Empowering fans and young people

When it comes to young people today, Wright says it’s essential to remember you’re not alone.

“I’m telling you, I’m guaranteeing you, you are not alone,” she urges. “If you have a trusted contact, you [can] feel an instant where you’re not being judged. That is the doorway to your own liberation – and that is the doorway to freedom, freedom from your mind.”

That one connection may make all the difference, Wright says.

On parenting

As a mother, Wright shares her thoughts on guiding kids and teens through this strange and uncharted territory.

“We have to accept that we really don’t know what’s going on in our child’s mind,” she says. “The clues are all there. It’s not about how we ask questions. It’s about how we listen.”

Wright stresses leading by example. A big part of this, she says, is taking care of your own mental health and cultivating self-awareness.

“You are not the island, you are the ocean. You’re allowed to experience every form of emotion.”

— Gabriella Wright

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Colton Underwood is a former professional football player who starred in the hit TV series “The Bachelor” in 2019.

In 2021, Underwood publicly came out as gay on Good Morning America and has since starred in an unscripted six-episode Netflix series, “Coming Out Colton.”

He’s been candid about his mental health journey, from growing up Catholic, being closeted in the climate of American football, and coming out in the public eye.

Underwood shares that he experienced suicidal thoughts before he embraced his sexuality. He recalls that he once prayed to God to thank him for the opportunity to be on “The Bachelor,” believing it might “make him straight.”

He’s the founder of an NFT (non-fungible token) community called Pocket Friends, which aims to support young artists and promote a positive message for children and parents through the art of storytelling.

Underwood is also participating in Healthline and Psych Central’s 10-Day Digital Detox, part of Healthline’s Mental Well-Being Hub revamp this May.

Looking back at growing up

Though his life was very different from Wright’s, Underwood’s exposure to discussions around mental health was similar.

“I grew up in athletics, where the mentality was ‘tough guys get through it’ and ‘sad emotions are a sign of weakness,’” he shares. “I didn’t even know what therapy was!”

How do you relate to social media?

“My relationship status with social media is ‘it’s complicated,’” he says.

Underwood uses social media for his career, but notes he sometimes feels as though he’s at work 24/7.

“I feel like, overall, social media has had a negative impact on my mental health,” he shares. “Being able to see the negative things people have to say, their opinions and judgment, can be exhausting.”

How do you hope to see social media change in the future?

“I hope that the social media era changes for the better over the next few years,” Underwood says. “The ability to find a community and home so quickly is so powerful and needed in our world.”

Part of this involves increasing accountability and reducing the availability of anonymous accounts, he adds.

A message to his younger self

Underwood says not to believe everything you think.

“I would tell my younger self that the brain is very good at playing tricks on you. Very rarely are you in a situation that’s as extreme as your brain likes to play it out to be,” he says. “I had so much anxiety as a kid and would always play out the worst-case scenarios in my head.”

Empowering fans and young people

Underwood urges young people to find a place where they belong.

“To the young fans (friends) out there that follow me or my story, I would tell them to build a community that supports them,” he says. “If they don’t have an environment that’s safe to ask for help, find people who will be there to support you.”

The ability to find a community and home … is so powerful and needed in our world.”

— Colton Underwood

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Dan Payne is a Canadian actor and acting coach who most recently played the character Payback in the Tubi TV sci-fi action series “Corrective Measures.”

He’s been outspoken about his efforts to destigmatize mental health in the wake of his own experiences with depression.

Payne says it took him a long time to open up about his mental health journey in light of the stigma that kept him feeling “less than.”

He understands firsthand the power of reaching out to others in the midst of a crisis, noting that the overwhelming support he’s received from loved ones took much of the power of depression away.

Payne hopes that by speaking out, he can help others find the courage to reach out for support as well.

Looking back at growing up

“My experience with and exposure to mental health was fairly limited growing up,” says Payne. “It wasn’t openly talked about and wasn’t widely ‘accepted.’”

It was something you mostly kept to yourself, he says.

“The stigma surrounding mental health was formidable enough to make you want to keep things quiet even if you had an inkling that something wasn’t ‘right,’” Payne shares. “I wondered if what I was going through was just part of growing up and every kid felt the same way. I was just too afraid to ask.”

How do you relate to social media?

When it comes to using social media, Payne takes a detached approach.

“I would define my relationship with social media as casual,” he says. It’s “already something I feel I’m way behind in understanding. I appreciate it for the chance to share and digitally connect to people, but I also see the detrimental ‘death by comparison’ aspect of it.”

A message to his younger self

Payne’s message focuses on reaching out for support.

“I would tell my younger self to talk to my closest friends, parents, or siblings and let them know what’s going on,” he says. “That’s a great first step in my mind. To find out you’re not alone.”

Empowering fans and young people

Payne hopes that shifting attitudes will help young people find the courage to ask for help.

“I want to believe that the shift is enough that if you can find the courage to tell that person you love and trust that you’re not doing well and need some help, it will be there,” he says. “I think more than ever, parents, family, and friends are more likely to hear you and let you know it’s OK to not be OK.”

Payne stresses that getting help is a strength in itself.

“Getting help is not weakness,” he says. “I remember thinking that I was broken and that I couldn’t ask for help because it was no one’s fault but my own. I felt like I’d lose what little I had if I admitted that I was struggling. I wish I knew then how untrue that thought was.”

How do you hope to see social media change in the future?

“It feels like there’s been a heavy decrease of human interaction and therefore a sense of connection,” Payne says. “Nothing can replace the authentic experience of human interaction.”

He says it’s important to resist the urge to isolate or feel like online connections are enough.

“Sharing space with someone I care about makes me feel less alone even when I’m battling depression,” he says. “There’s a barrier of isolation I can’t help but feel through only social media connections.”

At the same time, he’s hopeful that social media can be put to good use.

“I think social media can lend to building ideas, foster creativity, and digitally connect like-minded people,” says Payne. “As long as it brings enjoyment and positivity and doesn’t become a negative source of judgment or excessive distraction, then I think it can be a great experience.”

On parenting

Payne has a household rule of no phones at the table to allow for bonding time over meals.

Still, he notes the challenges of engaging in a social media–filled world while also staying centered.

“My biggest concern is finding balance! I want [my kids] to be current and up to speed with their friends and peers, but I don’t want them to get lost in that world,” he says. “I don’t want them to give it any more value than it deserves … and I hope they can teach me how to use it from time to time!”

“Nothing can replace the authentic experience of human interaction.”

— Dan Payne

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Wright, Underwood, and Payne have their own strategies for maintaining healthy boundaries on social.

Start the day screen-free

“I’m personally trying to not pick up my phone for the first half-hour of every day, which I believe lends to better mental health,” Payne shares.

Passion over pressure

In order to have healthy boundaries on social media, Wright focuses on her passions rather than the pressures of brands, likes, and comments.

“Whenever you can stand by something that you’re passionate about, you can go all in because your whole mind, your heart, your body is invested,” she says. “I never put things up that I’m not OK with because it drains you.”

Emphasize community

Wright also focuses on the community aspects of social media.

“I really believe in community building,” she says. “Content-driven. Not selfie-driven, product-driven.”

Let go of FOMO

Underwood reminds us that we don’t have to be all online, all the time.

“I think there is the FOMO [fear of missing out] aspect of social media that people think they need to share what they’re doing exactly when they’re doing it,” he says. “I’m here to tell you that’s not the case.”

Comments aren’t canon

Underwood also maintains his boundaries by staying out of the comments.

“Any drama or negative comment is not a reflection of me but reflects the person passing on those negative comments,” he says. “I have to remind myself of that.”

Payne is right there with him.

“My mental health is best served by recognizing that if I come across negativity, it isn’t personal and only has value if I give it value,” he says.

Create your own standards

Wisely, Payne notes that both positive and negative input doesn’t have to define him.

“I prefer to focus on and be grateful for the kindness and positivity I’m fortunate to receive and to remember that those too are external influences that I can’t bank my mental health on, that strength and balance must come from within,” says Payne.

Still, he adds, “a little compliment here and there is a nice boost and refuel!”

Take frequent breaks

Wright cites the many online dangers — including stalkers, trolls, and a general tide of criticism and negativity — as reasons to take time out.

“We all need a break, and we all need to detox,” says Wright. “We all need to feel safe. That’s very important.”

Underwood has a simple formula for taking breaks from social.

“I take breaks typically on weekends,” he says. “I still share throughout the week, but I don’t submerge myself in it. I try my best to live in the moment and let people in when it’s [right] for me.”

Payne says he watches for his level of involvement.

“If I ever catch myself feeling too invested in the content of posts related to me or my work, and it’s affecting me in a negative way, I will absolutely take a break,” he says. “I only ever want it to be an enjoyable aspect of my work and a way to connect with people. Not be a source or reflection of how I value myself or what I do!”

Take action

Join Colton Underwood, Healthline, and Psych Central in taking a break from social media in our 10-Day Digital Detox on Instagram. Check out this article to learn more about the Detox and the benefits of a break.

And follow these influencers spreading the word about mental health and social media:

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Social media is here to stay, but you can choose to use it as a positive tool.

With a bit of self-awareness and intention, you can relate to your feed in a healthy, balanced way.

Take it from three people who get it.

Crystal Hoshaw is a mother, writer, and longtime yoga practitioner. She has taught in private studios, gyms, and one-on-one settings in Los Angeles, Thailand, and the San Francisco Bay Area. She shares mindful strategies for self-care through online courses at You can find her on Instagram.