Telling your mental health story online can throw up some new challenges. This guide will help you to navigate online campaigning in a way that's safe and inclusive.
1. Deciding how much of your story to share
Before you start sharing your mental health story online, it's important to think about how much you want to share.
Sharing your story publicly is a good thing to aim for as we are trying to change people's attitudes towards mental health.
However, it's important to consider what you're comfortable sharing:
- Just because you're sharing one aspect of your story, doesn't mean you have to talk about all of it - there might be some things which you want to keep private, and that's ok.
- Take some time to imagine how different people in your life would respond to what you share - it may be the first time that they're hearing about a particular part of your experience.
- The most important thing to remember is that you're in control of how much you share, and you should make that decision based on what feels comfortable and safe for you.
2. Boundaries and signposting
If people look to you for support or advice, it's important to have strong boundaries to keep yourself and others safe.
Top tips for maintaining boundaries online:
- Be aware about the impact that your online relationships are having on you. How much time and energy are they taking up?
- Being kind and supportive to others online is great - but you shouldn't be in a position where you're a person's sole source of support. It's OK to be honest with people about what you're able to give, especially if it's having an impact on you.
- If someone is persistently contacting you, and it's making you uncomfortable or impacting your mental health, it is ok for you to distance yourself from them, either by blocking them or ignoring the messages. It is important to always look after your own wellbeing.
We have a list of support services on our website that you can signpost people to if they are struggling and they get in touch with you. Please see below draft message you could send to someone to point them to support services.
"Sorry to hear that you are struggling. It's ok not to feel ok and to talk about it. Please have a look at these support services who you can talk with via text, email or on the phone. The Samaritans are free to call 24/7 on 116 123."
3. Avoiding triggering content
Honesty is powerful when it comes to sharing your mental health story, but bear in mind that some details might be hard for people to hear or read.
Sharing details about particular experiences of mental illness can carry the risk of making things worse for the people reading or watching your content. This is what we call triggering content. By avoiding details that will upset or exclude people, you can make sure that your story is as inclusive as possible, and that everyone can read or watch it.
It's best to avoid:
- Details of methods of self-harm or suicide attempts. Sharing graphic details or images can be really upsetting and can also encourage imitative behaviour. You can still create content around self-harm and suicide, just focus on thoughts and feelings rather than actions.
- Sharing photos or referring to specific numbers (such as calories, or weight measurements) when talking about eating disorders can be harmful for people who have experience of those conditions.
If you're dealing with any topic that has the potential to be upsetting - such as self-harm or suicide, but also non-mental health topics like abuse or sexual violence - you might want to include a note about the subject matter at the start of the post or video.
4. Dealing with trolls & negativity
Unfortunately, there are still people online who have negative & unhelpful attitudes towards mental health - that's why our campaigning is so important!
Sometimes it's good to challenge negativity - after all, our goal is to change attitudes towards people with mental health problems. But don't feel like you need to challenge every instance of stigma you see online, nor do you have to respond to any negative replies that come directly to you.
Consider a couple of things before responding to a negative or critical comment:
- What mental space are you in? Would it be healthier to engage with the criticism or to ignore it?
- Do you think it's likely that you'll change their mind? Are they coming to the discussion in good faith, or are they being critical for the sake of it, to provoke a negative reaction?
- It can be helpful to talk to someone you trust about the content who could help guide your response, if you choose to respond.
Top tip: Do not post or respond to posts if you are angry - allow yourself a couple of day cooling off period between writing and posting.
- Ian, Time to Change Champion
If you do respond to a critical comment, try to be understanding and constructive. Respond calmly as best you can, and try to reason them through your point of view.