Since starting my blog, I’ve always declared myself as a ‘mental health blogger.’ My aim has always been to write about mental wellbeing and ways to improve emotional health. I tend to refrain from talking about my own mental health as I don’t think this would be particularly helpful for readers or myself. As I make the move from student nurse to qualified mental health nurse in the next few weeks, I’ve made the tough decision to take my blog in a slightly different direction. This isn’t to say that I won’t still be sharing snippets of my life, but things are going to go back to the vision I had for my blog initially: to educate, to provoke thought and mostly, to help.
So welcome to No Space For Milk 2.0.
Even in the three short years that I’ve been blogging, things have changed immensely online regarding awareness of mental health. Most of this has been really positive. We’re talking about mental health a lot more, it’s getting easier to signpost people to help and things like taking anti-depressants are becoming much more normalised, rather than a taboo.
But sadly, we still have a really long way to go, particularly in the ways we talk about mental health online.
There appears to be much more understanding of both anxiety and depression online. People are beginning to talk more openly about the realities of these mental illnesses, the ways that they can manifest differently for different people and how we can help ourselves and each other. But at times it almost feels like we’ve gone backwards. It’s very clear from reading online that many people think all ‘millennials’ have anxiety or that depression is a form of laziness. Of course, we could all just give little thought to the people who believe these things, but that’s difficult when you’re dealing with anxiety or depression, especially for those who struggle to leave the house. If your world becomes social media, you might be seeing these opinions daily and it’s easy to allow those to infiltrate your brain, making you feel worse about yourself.
However, I do think that on the whole, that anxiety and depression are some of the more well understood illnesses.
Despite the fact that it’s becoming more and more okay to talk about anxiety and depression, unfortunately there’s still a huge amount of stigma around other mental illnesses. Schizophrenia, personality disorders and bipolar disorder continue to conjure images of psychiatric hospitals, axe-wielding maniacs and an assumption that people living with these illnesses cannot maintain a ‘normal’ life. This is completely untrue but perhaps more understandable when we see the way the media portray these mental illnesses. However, those who use social media have the power to change perceptions so when we talk about mental health, we should also be talking about the more complex illnesses.
Finally, there’s the ongoing debate of awareness vs action that I repeatedly see on Twitter. I’m a big believer that any small change is worthy and will contribute to bigger change. I also think that in regard to mental health, awareness is equally as important as action, however it seems that my opinion isn’t shared by everyone. While it would be amazing if there was something we could do to improve waiting times for therapies or find more inpatient beds for those in need, for many of us, the most we can do is help to build awareness of mental health conditions. And, social media is a fantastic platform for that, if we can continue to use it in a helpful way.
Do you think talking about mental health issues online is helpful? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!