I still get taken aback when I hear, or see, people talking openly about mental health. I know this isn’t something that should surprise me, I want it to be more commonplace, but unfortunately we’re not there yet as a society. Twice this morning I was surprised to hear the media was actually shedding light on the subject; the first was this morning on the Today Show as they were going over suicide statistics for men. The second was when I logged on to Twitter to see #LivingWithMentalIllnessIs was a trending topic.

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Of course, I found myself scrolling through hundreds of Tweets, just to get some insight into these people’s world.

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It took a lot for these people to bare their souls, and a part of their story, to the world via social media. Inevitably, there were people making light of the hashtag or turning political, but for the people who were truly there to give insight into their struggle with mental illness, I was so proud of them. I wanted to reach out and hug every one of them and tell them that I was there if they needed me. Obviously, that would be a bit creepy, so instead, I sat there Liking Tweet after Tweet, trying to let these people know that, in a world that doesn’t want to talk about mental health, they were seen and they were heard.

If you have a minute, or an hour, I’d encourage you to go out and take a look at what hundreds of people are saying it’s like for them to live with mental illness so you, too, can gain some insight.


Social Media Uses Chat in a New Way

Facebook,Twitter, and Tumblr have become many people’s sources of reaching out to others, discovering themselves, as well as becoming a news source. Today, as I was searching through my Facebook I came across the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Facebook page. As I was reading up on them and searching through their posts I found something interesting.

Not only can people struggling with suicidal thoughts find a phone line where they can talk, but now these people can speak to a counselor via Facebook chat. Some people may be skeptical as to whether these people who may be struggling should be finding their help hiding behind a screen, I think it’s great that there is yet another outlet for people. For those suffering from suicidal thoughts or mental illness, sometimes reaching out at all is very hard. Now, those who may be thinking about talking to someone but are still a bit unsure can sit down and talk out their problems with a professional.

If you or a friend is struggling with suicidal thoughts, I urge you to call the lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or visit their Facebook Page

Live Blog

In February 2010, The National Alliance for Mental Health Massachusetts started doing Twitter chats that converge mental health and social media (#mhsm). Tonight I’m taking place in a chat put on by NAMI Massachusetts and is moderated by unsuicide. The chat starts at 6 p.m. PST and I will be watching and putting my own input, thoughts, or experiences.

8:00 — The chat has started. Topic: Peer support

8:03 — First question asked: “What types of mental health and addictions peer support have helped you?”

8:07 — A lot of the people that have responded to the first question have answered with friends and online help. I definitely agree that friends and family are one of the best support groups there are.

8:10 — This is kind of overwhelming at first, there’s a lot more people involved in this chat than I thought. That’s definitely a good thing though

8:12 — Third question was posted. It asks whether or not you give professional peer support in the mental health system; this seems like an interesting question to ask. Would you keep your professional life separate from your personal life? I think that would be difficult to do.

8:17 — There’s a lot of talk about peer certification and peer groups during this chat, which is a concept I had never given much thought to. I’m wondering how these programs work and how one would go about getting involved. That would be an amazing way to help get involved and give back.

8:22 — I’ve gotten involved and put some input into the conversation, this chat is so informative and is really helping me connect with others in the mental health community. I’ll be tuning in more Tuesdays to join in the conversation.

8:29 — Got retweeted by another peer, @natasha_tracy who is a peer going through tough situations and spreading awareness. Definitely a good feeling

8:35 — Talking about favorite peer support outlets on this Twitter chat is showing me so many great blogs and resources for mental health help.

8:38 — The risks of peer support was just brought up. I’m glad this is something that is being covered. Although it’s really great that peer support is available, it’s always important to know the risks involved.

8:44 — A lot of the people involved are talking about taking caution when it comes to peer advice and making sure you feel comfortable. Sounds pretty reasonable.

8:50 — One of the last questions (I think, anyway) was asked about whether or not we would take a course to get peer certified if it was available. I think it sounds like a great way to get involved and I know I’m going to be looking into it more in the future.

8:55 — A questions was just asked about how people would go about talking about self-harm or eating disorders without triggering or encouraging these actions. I think talking about these subjects and the way questions or answers are worded is the most important. Just being careful and aware of what you’re saying.

9:00 — The chat just ended and it went surprisingly fast. Definitely a great way to learn more about mental health and connect with others.

For a transcript of the conversation that went on tonight, click here.