Tag Archives: Social Media

Writing a blog about your mental health – why and how?

Blogging about my mental health

A few weeks ago had an internet date. Of sorts. Not a romantic first date (thank goodness) but a face-to-face meeting with someone I met online. Someone like me in lots of ways. Someone who could be a friend.

We knew a lot about each other’s vulnerabilities and fears before we set eyes on each other. And that made things much easier. The conversation could get right to the good stuff. We could be open and honest. We chatted about medication, work, diagnoses, panic attacks, weddings and how our dogs help with our mental health. Not really first date fodder.

social anxiety blogIt’s all down to our blogs. Claire writes WE’Re AlL mAd HeRe about social anxiety (she’s also been asked to write a book about anxiety based on her blog – wow). She got in touch a few months ago and suggested lunch. I’m so glad she did. Meeting inspiring new people is just one of the things that blogging has done for me.

I’ve had a number of  readers get in touch with me recently about starting a mental health blog – overcoming those demons of uncertainty that whisper ‘what’s the point, who cares what I have to say?’

I know the feeling – I have it about writing fiction. But I thought I’d share a little about what blogging has done for me – and a few things that helped me get started.
Continue reading

Festive comparisons and the Facebook effect

An article exploring how the media forces us to make damaging comparisons in the festive season – and how we often magnify the effect with our own social media activity.

festive snowman

A friend and old colleague Holly was recently published in the Vagenda. Her article was a spectacularly cynical but very funny piece called ‘How to be a Woman from Halloween to January 2nd’. It felt like it was making, in some ways, a similar point to my Christmas and comparisons article of last year. She was kind enough to say it was inspired by it – although they are very different styles. We’re definitely on a similar page as I recently reworked my christmas inspired tweetChristmas Comparisons article for ONE in FOUR to think about the whole of the wintery festive season we’re entering now.  I also wanted to bring in the discrepancy monitor I recently explored in my social, media mindfulness and mental health  piece. And here’s the new version;

Internal comparisons

Do you have an internal picture in your mind of how your life ‘should’ be?

When you are feeling low do you ever find yourself judging your experience as ‘not right’ and comparing it to how you feel you ‘should’ be feeling or what ‘should’ be happening?

I mean thoughts like:

“Things should be different to this”
“I shouldn’t be feeling this way”
“I should be able to cope”
“I’m on holiday, I should be happy”
“Everyone else is out enjoying themselves and I’m not. What’s wrong with me?”

In managing my depression I often have to fight against my tendency to make judgements about how I feel my experience ‘should’ be. This doesn’t often happen consciously but takes place in the flow of automatic thoughts that run like a tape through my mind when I’m not really paying attention.

The discrepancy monitor

Segal, Williams and Teasdale (the creators of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) have a name for the part of our mind that makes comparisons like these. They call it the discrepancy monitor.

When we’re trying to get practical things done the discrepancy monitor can be helpful. We look at what the situation is now (the kitchen is a mess) and how we’d like the situation to be (I’d like a tidy kitchen) and then we decide what should be done to get to the preferred outcome (tidy up).

The problem comes when the discrepancy monitor kicks in inappropriately and tries to get involved in solving the ‘problem’ of our feelings, moods and who we feel we are as a person. Trying to ‘solve’ emotions intellectually doesn’t often work.

Making comparisons between how we feel and how we’d think we ‘should’ feel is an unpleasant experience. It is made worse by the fact that these thoughts can (often without us really noticing) lead to further negative, judgemental thoughts about yourself, the world and the future. This leads to a downwards spiral into a low mood. And because the discrepancy monitor is working overtime monitoring the situation, it brings your attention to the ever-widening gap between how you feel and how you think you ‘should’ feel. You end up feeling terrible and you’re not even sure why.

“I feel tired this morning”
“This is a really rubbish thing to be feeling”
“I feel low about feeling tired”
“I shouldn’t be feeling low, everyone else is happy”
“What’s wrong with me that makes me feel this way?”
“Why can’t I ever just be happy?”
“Nothing is ever going to change”

What if you were able to catch yourself and stop yourself making those initial comparisons? Instead of this downwards spiral making your negative mood more deeply entrenched, what if you could be more accepting towards your initial tiredness or low mood? Instead you could try taking a different and positive action that you know you gain pleasure from – or just wait for the experience to pass. Segal, Williams and Teasdale call this changing mental gear into a ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ mode. Continue reading

Moderating real time support chat with TheSite community

What does moderating real time support chat online for 10 – 25 young community members involve?

thesite.org

Support chat

Every other Sunday I moderate support chat on TheSite.org. TheSite runs a number of types offostress meet the moderator chat – I’ve also been an expert for their recent Mindfulness chat. I used to do moderation as part of my role as Advice and Training Manager at YouthNet – but since leaving I have continued in a volunteer capacity.

Support chat is the most common type of chat. For two hours, four evenings a week, the chat room is open for anyone to sign into. Usually it’s community members who come along (young people who are regular chat and discussion forum users) but sometimes it’s a gateway for new people to discover TheSite’s support service. Chatting in real time helps to strengthen the community who gather around the discussion forums. And sometimes regular forum users come into chat under a different name to discuss a more confidential issue.

Support chat is a group peer support space. It allows young people to chat in real time about their difficulties, get peer support from others and give people the benefit of their own experiences and suggestions. Sometimes it is a space for chat and distraction.

It’s a non judgmental and safe space. It is the role of the moderator to keep it that way – even when it gets very busy. Sometimes the chat transcripts can run to 80-100 pages when downloaded into Word. That’s a lot of support for an evening. In general there is a strong focus on managing mental health and wellbeing, although lots of other topics come up too. These can include friendships, relationships, self harm, accessing health services, school and college, online dating, bereavement, music and X Factor (to name a few!).

A moderator’s role

As a moderator I will be ensuring that everybody in the chat gets support and noone is ignored. This can involve offering suggestions and signposts or encouraging others to offer peer support. I am not there as a counsellor and would never diagnose or tell someone what they should do. Instead I am there to facilitate peer support, to give young people the space to talk and help them decide what courses of action are right for them. Continue reading

Mental Health Awareness Campaign Support

This summer I provided interim support for the CEO of Richmond Borough Mind in the initial Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 15.46.20stages of organising a campaign for World Mental Health day in October 2013.

Reducing stigma around mental health

The campaign was focused on reducing stigma around mental health with an emphasis on encouraging employers to consider mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

I wrote messaging and created a design brief for leaflets and posters, liaised with printers and distributers, advertised a breakfast briefing with Zac Goldsmith at the Chamber of Commerce, recruited and supported two locum staff to help create a business database and started planning the social media presence around the campaign.

Mental health in the workplace

Richmond Council were particularly interested in an anti stigma campaign because of some recent issues they had had surrounding sheltered housing in the borough. However one of the things I found most interesting were the responses to some of the calls we made to local businesses. We were hoping to speak to them about the ways that Richmond Mind could help them improve the wellbeing of their staff. The resources or training offered were completely free and at this stage all they needed to do was express an interest.

Some of the replies we received as soon as Mind – the mental health charity – was mentioned were quite telling. I particularly remember: “Oh we’re all fine here” and “Are you sure you’ve called the right place? We’re a marketing agency?

Because of course marketeers don’t get stress, anxiety or depression?!

It’s attitudes to mental health in the workplace like these that make me feel very glad that I will soon be starting work with Time To Change as a workplace health consultant. Despite the excellent work of local and national anti stigma campaigns there is still a lot of misunderstanding, fear, stigma and embarrassment about  mental health out there.

Clare was a joy to work with. She worked through ideas for our campaign, formed a project plan and acted on it very effectively. She is professional and tenacious and I would highly recommend her.

Val Farmer – CEO Richmond Borough Mind

Social media, mental health and mindfulness

Exploring the potential damage that social media can cause; promoting unrealistic representations of daily life and encouraging us all to make unhealthy comparisons with our internal experience.

It was only a few years ago that the idea that Facebook and other social networking sites could diminish happiness or affect wellbeing was still a relatively new one. Now there seems to be an article or news story claiming something similar every other week.

Is social networking good for your mental health?

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 21.26.55

How big is your discrepancy?

Mind recently published a blog from one of their Elefriends community members – ‘Is social networking good for your mental health’. It inspired an interesting debate on twitter which they collected together on Storify. As expected, there were tweets from people who found social media a lifeline, the only contact with the outside world, a supportive community of people who understood. Fabio Zuchelli writes a great post about the how Twitter can help when you’re depressed.

On the negative side of the debate were others who found trolls and haters bullied or upset them. And finally, most interesting for me, were the people who found social media difficult because of the comparisons it (almost) forces them to make. Continue reading

Christmas, comparisons, media and mental health – thoughts on having a more realistic Christmas this year.

Internal comparisons

Perfect Christmas? Only in Legoland..

Perfect Christmas? Only in Legoland..

Do you have an internal picture in your mind of how your life ‘should’ be?

When you are feeling low, do you ever find yourself judging your experience as ‘not right’ and comparing it to how you feel you ‘should’ be feeling or what ‘should’ be happening?

By this I mean thinking thoughts like;

 

“Things should be different to this”

“I should be doing this”

“I shouldn’t be feeling this way”

“I should be able to cope”

“ I should be better at managing this”

“I’m on holiday, I should be happy”.

As someone who manages depression, I often have to note and fight against my tendency to make comparisons and judgements about how I feel my experience ‘should’ be. This doesn’t often happen consciously, but takes place in the flow of automatic thoughts that run like a tape through my mind when I’m not really paying attention.

The comparison itself isn’t a very pleasant experience. It is made worse by the fact that thoughts like this can (often without us even really noticing) lead to further negative thoughts and judgements about yourself, the world and the future. This can lead to a downwards spiral into a low mood – one that you can’t work out where it came from or how to get rid of it.

“I feel low this morning”

“This is a really rubbish thing to be feeling”

“I shouldn’t be feeling low, everyone else is happy”

“What’s wrong with me that makes me feel this way?”

“Why can’t I ever just be happy?”

“Nothing is ever going to change”

What if you were able to catch yourself and stop making those initial automatic comparisons? Instead of this downwards spiral making your negative mood more deeply entrenched, what if you could be more accepting towards your initial low mood? Instead of making things much worse by judging, comparing and trying to intellectualise your emotions, you could just try taking a positive action to help yourself feel better – or just wait for the experience to pass. Continue reading