I recently gave an interview with a doctoral student about mental illness and social media. He posed some really interesting questions, and I really enjoyed working through them with him. I’ll be following the progress of his study which in part may be seeking to find ways of supporting people with mental illness through social media.
We talked about stigma. I said that just by sharing our stories, we are helping to break the stigma. And when we can help to educate through social media, we need to have the courage to do it. The world and our friends and family need to get a better picture of what mental illness looks like in a person. It may not be what they expect.
To be honest, some of us are doing everything we can to reinforce the stigma. To a large degree, we cannot help it. Not every one of us has access to the kind of care required to keep us well. But wellness is a part of illness that not everyone sees. Perhaps people see a well person and think that that means they do not still have a mental illness, for instance. “Glad you’re better! I suppose everyone goes through a patch of bipolar once in their life. They thought I was bipolar when I was teen. I was using a lot of drugs! But I got over it.” (implication, maybe you should get over it).
But when we write and network and reach out, we can break those stigmas. We can humanize our illness for people.
I don’t want to rehash the interview. This guy’s work will speak much better for itself than I will. But I am a little more mindful at the moment. I’m thinking about how the bipolar community is with each other. He asked if I’d ever received negative comments on my blog. I said “Never! Bipolar people don’t treat each other that way. We’ve all been beaten up, belittled, discarded, and judged too much to treat each other that way. I get nothing but support.”
And that’s a true statement for me. I’ve received nothing but support and solidarity from my readers. For that, I’m am so very grateful. There’s never been a better time in history for people with mental illness and social media is an important part of that.
If you would like to participate in this study contact John Naslund @naslundj or click here to take the survey