I was recently asked by The Mumologist, Dr. Emma Svanberg, to answer 5 questions in relation to the effect of social media on mental health and how it feels to share mental health experiences online. Please have a read below but also take a look at the following link www.mumologist.com/5questions/ to read some of the other responses given and read Emma’s other posts. She is a Clinicial Psychologist specialising in the perinatal period. She is regularly campaigning about mental health and writes a lot about maternal mental health. She is also a hypnobirthing practitioner….and I am all for the calm!
What made you start sharing your/reading about others mental health experiences online?
I suppose I started sharing when I started blogging, writing about many things. When I wrote about having a premature baby, I thought it had just been too much of a profound experience for me to go through and not to share. It was one of the toughest times in my life having a prem baby and 2 small children at home. Writing and sharing it was definitely cathartic for me, but getting feedback also did that same job. Knowing others felt the same way or shared similar experiences. When I miscarried, which was definitely very personal to share, I suppose part of the reason to write about it was to shun the silence and maybe help someone else. I got so many messages it was amazing. I learnt so much about what to expect on this rollercoaster in the weeks and months that have followed. That the emotions and feelings that were constantly changing were normal.
I began reading about mental health when someone I know started to suffer from anxiety. I knew nothing of that world and how unbelievably life consuming and tough it can be. It’s not something that can be shrugged off. I learnt about how, when medication is necessary, that it isn’t an instant fix, that levels take time. I began to learn all about mindfulness and ways to help. I think educating ourselves about mental health is not just for those who are suffering daily but also for those that can offer support. Isn’t part of the massive problem the lack of understanding? Those of us who don’t suffer have an obligation to educate ourselves. I remember before my miscarriage following a lady who had lost her baby tragically. One of her messages was trying to get those who have not experienced loss to push for open talk. I remember being quite passionate about that – how awful it must be for someone experiencing such a tragic loss to on top of that feel they can’t speak or are avoided or at worst ignored. I remember wanting to write about it but a few people said it wasn’t my place….so……I didn’t. But now having experienced loss myself I so wish I had. Because these conversations must be had by people who aren’t going through it in order to educate people and promote open talk.
What have been the pros for you?
The pros about educating myself have meant I have been able to offer real support…that I understand more. And also to be aware of signs for myself as a mother for both me and my family. A massive pro has been finding amazing accounts to follow full of daily useful advice that is applicable to us all.
The pros in sharing my own experiences have been more about not remaining silent and the feeling that you might have helped someone.
What have been the cons for you?
I have yet to experience any cons to reading about mental health online or from personally sharing. However as much as social media is a fantastic platform to learn and share …once you put something out there there’s a vulnerability at stake and that’s scary. I have never experienced any negativity myself but it is definitely out there. But thankfully it seems in most cases the positivity outweighs it.
However there is one problem that can come from ‘following’ other people and that is of comparison. We are all guilty of it and it is not healthy. We must strive to be our own person following our own path our way.
Did your experience online lead you to making any real life changes?
New life changes, yes absolutely. I journal daily, I use the fantastic blom cards for daily mindfulness. Through learning about body positivity, I have made great headway in loving my body as it is and not wanting to change it to be a decades old ‘ideal’ shape. I now exercise to make me feel good not look good. In order to reduce the ‘comparison’ issue when perusing accounts, I have altered who I follow to now only follow those who have a positive affect. My goodness – was that one of the best pieces of advice I read and that I acted on.
Did it lead you to making any decisions about accessing professional or medical help?
No I can’t say it did for me personally. I am though more educated on what help is out there should it be for me or for someone I know.
I think all in all, we are all a lot similar than we think. We each have our own battles and insecurities, joys and passions. We are each on our own boat ride through life, people hopping on and off where fits.
If the rise of Instagram means anything, I think it’s proof we are all looking to learn more and identify more with each other. I would like to think that for the most part that is a good thing.