Another day, another twitter hashtag trending and shaming us into sharing a relevant post or taking some level of action. Admittedly this week, the cause is much better than #HamburgerDay or #ShortPersonAppreciationDay with the focus being on mental health, but it can be easy to feel the same level of disillusionment and weariness, no matter the subject matter. Most of us use social media on a daily basis and can become slightly immune to the latest trending topic; so what impact do these hashtag days really have? Do they allow us to understand new areas or does it just become an opportunity to share an entertaining meme or insightful quote?
Therefore, in honour of the hashtag week, we thought now was as good a time as any to sit down with a member from our community to see if they can help us see #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek from the perspective of an experienced AMHP.
Briefly explain your social work story to our community.
My journey as a social worker in mental health begin in 2004. I was lucky that one of my university practice placements had been in mental health and I realised that it worked at my cadence. I felt comfortable, and in my element working in a sector that prior to doing my training I had largely steered clear of and definitely did not understand. Without wanting to sound like too much of a cliche, you could say that I accepted the challenge and found my calling.
From that, I went on to specialise in mental health and eventually became an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP).
What do you think about the awareness of mental health nowadays?
Yesterday I was walking through the streets of Manchester when I saw charity workers from a national Mental Health awareness charity collecting money. I stopped to consider this, as previously I had not been particularly aware of the increased trend in making mental health fashionable. And then it all started to click, just how many fundraisers I’d seen in the past week. Endless people shaking buckets at me. There’s no denying that people are talking about mental health more now than ever before, but I’m not convinced it’s coming from a place of sincerity. Is this from a empathetic need for a greater support and awareness of mental health needs in society? Or (as the cynic in me would have you believe) is mental health the next great cash cow?
(Total disclosure, I worked in the military and in some respects, whilst I am sure Help For Heroes does some amazing work, I do wonder if it the government transferring the financial obligation into the purses of the public. So I do have a bias here.)
What do you think of the hashtag awareness days, weeks and months on social media for mental health? Do you think social media helps or hinders the mental health cause?
Is the use of hashtags on Twitter and other social media a positive thing? Does it polarise and create a degree of paternalism? The ‘us’ and ‘them’ element? Or does it bring us together? This will always depend on your experience, and if you’ve encountered a troll or ten on Twitter, hiding behind a keyboard. There are some incredibly supportive people out there and social media is an instant form of communication – surely the two should work in harmony…
Social media has had a positive impact on empowering men to congregate and talk about their feelings, in particular. The Halifax based ‘Andy’s Man club’ being an example of positive empowerment for men who were often considered to be resistive to intervention and at high mortality risk due to suicide. The fact that Andy’s Man club has groups all over the UK means that mental health is becoming more acceptable and I do feel social media is largely responsible to convey the real message – it’s ok to talk.
How would you recommend those working in mental health approach social media?
The reality is we’ve come a long way since 2004, and our society has changed drastically since we first met the idea of social media. Even better – things will look completely different in another 15 years for us all, and in particular the mental health sector. And social media does have a place in that future. Just never forget to use your common sense, and adopt a bit of cynicism to stay sane among the mindless tweeters…
Contributed by Stephen Allanson.
While you're here...
One Stop Social has a whole range of useful resources for those working in mental health. So whether it’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek or just a normal day in the office and you’re after some tools to support your practice, we’ve got you covered! Don’t forget to get in touch with our team if there’s a resource you’d like us to share with our community!