IT’S 11pm and I’m lying in bed, aimlessly scrolling through Instagram. I see a photo of someone with a strange contraption on their head.

Below, the caption tells me that antidepressants have “dangerous side effects” and often fail to help. Instead, many people are turning to new, experimental technologies like – Oh, it’s an advert.

I keep scrolling, and soon I see a ­picture of an organisational planner, a new tool that’s been developed to help manage the daily tasks of life which can become ­overwhelming with an “ADHD brain”.

It’s not long before I’m met with a ­ubiquitous ad for an app which provides counselling services via text chat.

Another tells me that a new vibrating device can help me cope better with stress (and it’s not what you think ... ).

Is my Instagram trying to tell me ­something? Yes, yes it is. It’s telling me that it knows all about my searches for ­advice and information on mental health and ­neurodivergence, and it’s ready to cash in on it.

As a person with a high ­capacity for ­critical thinking, even at my most ­emotionally ­vulnerable I am wary of ­being sold ­solutions to my problems. But for many others, this kind of marketing could be highly effective in pinpointing their deepest anxieties and struggles in order to ­capitalise on them.

And with the amount of money which is clearly going into ­promoting these ­businesses, you have to assume they are achieving a return on their investment.

This isn’t to say that all of these tools are inherently nefarious; some may even be helpful in conjunction with other ­supports. However, they are part of a wider picture in which it has become all too easy for ­people to be targeted with information about ­highly complex issues which can be ­misleading, confusing, or presented in ­manipulative ways.

This is true of many topics, but when it comes to our health and wellbeing, the risks that come from being immersed by “the algorithm” in an ­indistinguishable soup of fact, fiction and fortune-hunting are particularly stark.

It’s no exaggeration to say that my social media feeds are flooded with content about these topics, and in fairness, lots of it can be useful.

I was still a child when I became ­conscious of experiencing high levels of anxiety. Most often this arose from the sense there were things that seemed to be fundamentally harder for me than my peers – like ­knowing what to say and how to act.

It always felt to me like there was some secret I had never quite been let in on.

Despite struggling through my ­teenage years with my mental health, my first ­“revelation” about all of this came when I was at university and spending a lot of time on Tumblr. I came to ­understand ­myself better by reading about other ­people’s ­experiences, and much of the content I was exposed to included ­extracts and links to official and ­academic sources of information.

More recently, I’ve found myself learning from ­neurodivergent ­advocates on Twitter, which has helped give me the courage to finally seek a ­formal diagnosis.

The access to knowledge and ­community that these online spaces can provide for people can’t be ­underestimated, as I’ve seen first-hand. At the same time, there are swaths of information online which is far too simplistic and, at times, ­inaccurate.

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, it might be worth ­considering why so many people are ­willing to turn to any number of products, tools, or sources of support, just to help them cope.

Perhaps the problem is that many people are acutely aware of their own struggles, but they’re also aware that to get support through the NHS they’d be facing a waiting list which could leave them far worse off by the time they get to the front of it.

The demand for support around ­mental health is only growing, which is likely the result of a combination of ­factors, ­including the demonstrably awful ­circumstances surrounding us in a ­deeply unequal, unjust country and world; ­feelings of isolation and alienation driven by ever-rarer opportunities to connect in person while cuts are made to community activities and supports; and an improved understanding of the importance of mental health and reduced stigma around seeking out support.

Is it any surprise that some people – either because of their own challenges trying to get support through the NHS, or those of people they know – are now looking for alternative remedies or taking advice wherever they can get it?

Yet somehow, instead of focusing on the solutions to those systemic problems, or to the societal and structural issues exacerbating or causing poor mental health for many people, the response to these trends has more commonly been to discredit people’s own accounts of their struggles.

There is no shortage of critiques out there of the advice being touted on social media platforms, from TikTok to Twitter; criticism which all too often descends into misplaced conclusions about how mental health issues, ADHD and autism are all just the latest passing fad. Let’s be clear: none of these conditions or ­neurotypes are new, nor are attempts to dismiss or explain them away.

That people can now much more easily present themselves as experts in anything brings with it problems which can and should be addressed without denying the very real reasons why people seek their advice in the first place.

In the same vein, many have taken last week’s BBC Panorama ­documentary, “Private ADHD clinics exposed”, as ­confirmation that there are concerning numbers of false diagnoses of ADHD.

Taking this to its logical conclusion, one author – whose critiques of mental health are taken seriously by many – argued that the same problem applied across ­psychiatric diagnoses, which are, by their account, over-diagnosed and impossible to “test”.

While it is shameful for anyone to make money providing subpar advice, support or diagnoses to people coming to them in need, it’s the fact that people are ­desperate enough to turn to them that we should be most concerned about.

Isn’t it all a bit too convenient for a narrative to take hold that the real reason the NHS is under strain is that people are wasting their time over conditions they don’t even have? It’s all in our heads – the condition, and the national crisis.

TOO often, the same people rightfully applying critical thinking to profit-making industries are oddly naive about the question of whose interests might be served by undermining belief in the validity of mental health and neurodivergent diagnoses.

For my part, this all turned out to be ­excellent timing, as I await a referral for an assessment (on the NHS – I’m not made of money) in the knowledge that it might take years and that, diagnosis or not, many people will still think I’m imagining it.

This, after spending years delaying my decision to take it forward because of precisely that fear.

Unfortunately, there will be many more people whose self-doubt and shame will only be affirmed by these arguments, ­preventing them from reaching out. So much for breaking down stigma.

Many people struggle to see their ­problems as severe enough until they reach a crisis point, always telling ­themselves that somebody else ­probably has it worse.

Sadly, that’s a message which is reinforced by this kind of ­public discourse, and by the hoops and hurdles people are often expected to surpass ­before they can be access support or even diagnosis.

Much of the well-intentioned messaging out there about mental health is focused on telling us to “talk about it” and to take our own wellbeing seriously. My polite request is that we might focus with equal enthusiasm on urging everyone else to take it seriously too – starting with those who have the power to invest in it.