Last Sunday saw our first ever live discussion on Twitter for young people affected by mental health problems. The title of our talks is #TalkOut and will be something we run on a regular basis alongside Youth Mental Health (@time4recovery) and Talk Out (@Talk_Out).
We decided to look at the impact of social media on mental health issues and recovery and it was an undeniable success, so much so that it was very difficult to keep up with multiple conversations all at once!
We had a real mix of people too, Twitter cutting through hierarchies often found in clinical settings and opening up the door for young people and adults to talk openly and honestly about their experiences of mental illness and the internet.
This is of course something that is of huge interest to me personally. For me the internet had a powerful role in my mental health both in terms of illness and recovery and i think it is an area that needs much more attention given to it.
All too often, or in fact from what i see in mainstream media, the internet is reported as a dangerous place, a cyber wilderness or even wasteland populated by Innocent children and Bad adults. Pornography, gambling, bullying; these are all things that make headlines and sell papers (or get more “hits” online) but they are not the whole story, not by a long shot.
For me (and judging by Saturday’s conversation a lot of other young people) the internet was a safe place and at times the only place i could go. I did not abuse the anonymity granted to us when we step into the World Wide Web, i used it to use a voice i could not find IRL or “In Real Life”. In fact it was on the internet, in one of those infamous chat rooms the tabloids love to condemn that i found others like me, first opened up. It was because of strangers i met online that i sought help for my mental health problems in the first place.
Stories like these don’t sell papers but they do have a place and they do deserve to be told. The internet is one of, if not the, most powerful tools we have created and it has almost infinite uses, and i can’t stress this enough, some of them are good, some of them save lives.
Similarly i saw an inspirational talk on TED recently about a text messaging service in the US which has had resounding success:
We talked about how the internet and social media had affected our own recovery:
“[It] took me years to seek help for #mentalhealth problems, only did because friends online told me to and told me how #TalkOut”
And what could be done to help others:
“Social Media not only helps by providing a platform for awareness & support accounts but also for ppl to talk to each other/friends #TalkOut”
“I think if schools had a forum for students to discuss MH it would benefit pupils #TalkOut”
“In my experience somehow utilising social media to help pupils would be great, I know it would have helped me enormously #TalkOut”
You can read more comments from #TalkOut here at Storify:
Overall we had some amazing, insightful and even inspirational conversations around the internet, social media and recovery and made some new friends along the way.
“Perhaps now’s the time to change this. A community is louder than 1 advocate, more resounding as one united voice #TalkOut”
In the future we are hoping to hold bi-weekly Talk Outs on Thursday and Saturday evenings, please follow us at @vikproject or me directly at @KittyCormack and remember to look out for and use the #TalkOut hashtag.