A supportive online community #TimeToTalk 2017

Today is Time to Talk day, a day dedicated to getting the nation talking about mental health, led by Time to Change. Normally on days like today I’d be running around supporting the day as best I can, last year we organised an event at work and started a number of conversations around mental health and wellbeing. This year I couldn’t be feel any less motivated, and I feel awful for that. But on a day where we’re encouraged to talk about mental health I couldn’t feel any less able to talk about my own mental wellbeing.

I tweeted earlier about how alone I feel with my mental health lately – I wasn’t seeking attention, I was genuinely expressing about how frustrated I am that today of all days I feel my brain has completely blocked me from being able to open up and reach out to others. Writing is often a lot easier than talking for me, sending emails or writing blogs helps me a great deal. The wonderful thing about blogging and using social media is that it can be a great source of support, and empathy. A lot of those who follow Dearest Someone, have experienced similar difficulties, or have supported another who has been in a similar boat, so the response I receive when I’m being positive, or brutally honest about my own experience is truly something that I am grateful for.

It’s funny, as part of my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and work that I’ve done aside that I have researched a lot about digital communities, and the authenticity of them. There’s a lot to be said about research that labels social media usage as something negative, when I must admit in my own experience I’ve often found strength through others when I’ve mentioned on my blog, on Twitter or on Dearest Someone’s Facebook about times when I’m struggling. Of course receiving support from someone online is not the same as a friend making you a cuppa, or a loved one giving you a huge bear hug. It’s not the same, but for me it’s not negative.

A lot of the people I engage with online have had similar experiences to me in terms of mental health services and support. Those close to me haven’t necessarily had this experience, so at times I do hesitate to open up to them about things. Those available through my social media networks I cannot ever be certain that they are who they say they are, but even if they are going out of their way to ‘troll’ me by saying positive things… well, the jokes on them right? I don’t doubt those who follow me on Twitter, or those who comment and message me through my blog, I don’t doubt their authenticity at all. And no I don’t think I’m being naive, I just think that there isn’t often a space for us to speak openly and honestly about mental health, and it is a lot easier to do it online. There are no commitments, no friends who can panic, or tell you to pull yourself together. Online it is an empathetic and supportive environment.

Of course being able to speak openly and honestly outside of a virtual world would be incredible, but the stigma surrounding mental illness does still exist. And sometimes it’s blocks that have been built by myself, when I’m too anxious or ashamed to talk about my mental health to another I find it much easier to blog about how I’m feeling. Yes it may mean that I’m not necessarily receiving the same support I’d get if I spoke to someone in ‘real’ life, but I don’t want to discredit the support I do receive.

On days like today when I’m finding it incredibly difficult to talk to others, (feeling ‘anti-human’ is what I like to label it) I’m incredibly grateful for the blogging and social media platforms that I have at my disposal. I can be open, honest, and I can use the space to reflect on how I’m feeling, and talk to others at the same time. Also, I am able to keep up to date with all the wonderful things others are doing to mark #TimeToTalk day, and raising awareness of the importance of being able to start conversations about mental health.

Talking about mental health isn’t easy, but finding a positive way to reach out to others – whether that’s online or in person, is doable.

There are various online resources available to those who wish to find a supportive, safe community, such as:

There are also a number of peer support groups on Facebook – I follow an incredible one led by The Doodle Chronicles: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DoodleChroniclesPeerSupport/

For more information and resources on Time to Talk day 2017, and other mental health related queries please visit: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

tttd17-social-post-its-today

Follow Dearest Someone, on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DearestSome

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