Tag Archives: Social media

True Peer Support

I’ve recently started going to a DBT skills peer support group. I’ve only done about three sessions but already I’m seeing the effect of true peer support. And yes it is positive.

I’ve come across peer support before; both online and in real life, as they say. I’ve had mixed experiences. Some have been extremely positive where as others seemed to drag me further down into my suffering.

My first experience of peer support was on an online forum for people who self harm. At the time I had no diagnosis and no one in my everyday life knew what was happening. Reaching out on this forum felt positive. It felt like a place where people understood me. It also gave me advice on what to do next. It was great. I made some really good friends who I’ve since met and they are still in my life over ten years later. There is a group of us who quite often meet up. We’ve seen marriages and children born. Most of us have graduated through university. We are all a similar age so I think that is why we’ve clicked. We also talk about other things than our mental health but the option to talk about it is always there. This is all positive but there was a darker side to the forum. Things seemed to become competitive for some users. I felt myself being dragged downwards. People were comparing who had it worse or seemed to one up people. It started to become a toxic place for me. Therefore I removed myself from the forum. I still keep in contact with the friends I have made through it though and in that way I still have peer support.

Another place I did peer support was through a local charity. They offered a recovery course run by people with their own experience of mental illness. It was a useful place and much was discussed about mental health and what we all found useful or not. There was a sense of comaradery among us. We bonded and shared many laughs. Again I made friends who are still in my life now.

A major place for peer support that I have found is the Twitter mental health community. Everyone is so supportive of others and it is a great place to get information about many different aspects of mental health and mental illnesses. There can be trolls on Twitter so you have to be careful but the block button is there for a reason. I have made great connections with people on there and found it a great sounding board and a place I can ask questions when I’m unsure.

My latest foray into the world of peer support has been through my local Mind charity. I started by attending the young person’s group and although we don’t really discuss our mental illnesses it is nice to know we all understand when someone is having a tough time and we work together to make the time fun. It is also a chance to be creative and work as a team. I’ve also started attending the DBT peer support group recently, which I mentioned at the beginning. The people have been so lovely and supportive. I’m so grateful for them. I feel I’m making some great friends there.

Overall my experience of peer support has been positive. Of course, as with anything, there have been negative experiences but I believe it has a vital role in helping us learn about our mental health and mental illnesses. However it should not be used in place of professional support, as can be the case, but alongside it.

For more information on peer support you can look on the Mind website here.

If you have any experiences or questions about peer support feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Self Harm Scar Etiquette

As it’s summer the weather is warmer and people are starting to reveal more of their body. This brings an anxiety to people who have self harmed, past or present, as they are faced with the choice of covering up (and boiling) or revealing their scars and self harm to the world. Therefore I thought I’d come up with some things that will make it easier for the person with the scars or self harm if you encounter them. Obviously this is just my opinion and others may feel differently.

1. Don’t point it out

This seems obvious to some but not to others. Pointing out scars adds to the self consciousness. We’re already worried what people are thinking without it being obvious that they’re looking at the scars. Also if we are starting to forget about them and enjoy what we’re doing then pointing them out takes away from our enjoyment.

2. Don’t ask us why we did it

Again, this adds to self consciousness. We become aware that you’re really looking and thinking about our self harm or scars. It can make us feel awkward and like we’re being judged. Quite often we don’t know why we self harm or don’t want to discuss it as its obviously something that has caused us great pain. We can easily be taken back to that dark place.

3. Don’t tell us to cover up

First of all why should we cover up? This makes me a little annoyed. I’ve been made to feel ashamed of my scars a long time and this shouldn’t be the case. It’s part of an illness. I have every right to not boil in summer. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable but I also shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable. People who self harm feel enough shame and it takes guts to show your scars, we shouldn’t have that shame added to.

4. Please don’t stare

This can feel awful. I already feel self conscious enough without people staring at me. I had this once on the train and it really fed in to my paranoia. I know it can be hard to look away sometimes but please think of the person you’re staring at.

It takes real bravery to overcome the barriers to have your scars on show. It is revealing yourself to many people, including strangers. It can take a long time to accept your scars are part of you. Shame is a really strong emotion that people who self harm feel and can be added to by other people making ill thought out comments. Please think before you speak.

If you have any other things you feel people should do or not do help you feel comfortable showing scars feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Body Image

This year’s mental health awareness week has the topic of body image. I was unsure how to cover this as I don’t have an eating disorder or body dysmorphia. However I realised I have had my own issues with my body and my mental illness has effected how I feel about myself physically.

What is body image?

“Body image is a person’s perception of the aesthetics or sexual attractiveness of their own body. It involves how a person sees themselves, compared to the standards that have been set by society.” (Wikipedia, May 2019).

My body image

Throughout my life I have been overweight. This has led to me hating my body and the way I look. It’s eaten away at my self esteem and led to me having little confidence in myself. My body image has had a negative effect on my mental health. It hasn’t been helped by the medication I’m on leading me to gain even more weight. It has become a bit of a cycle of feeling worse so increasing meds leading to increasing weight and then feeling worse again.

People have told me that they have found me attractive or that there are nice features of me. I struggle to believe it and cannot see this at all. My body image in their eyes is skewed. I think this hasn’t been helped by the trauma I’ve been through that has led to me hating my body even more. I can only see something that has been used and abused. Something that has let me down when I’ve needed it most.

Improving body image

There are some things we can do to help our body image. They are not always easy and it won’t be a quick fix.

The first thing you can do is avoid negative media. Avoid looking at diet accounts and airbrushed models. They give us a false representation of what we feel we should look like and feed into our doubts about ourselves. Instead try and look for body positivity accounts to follow. Body Positive Panda is a great account on Instagram to follow and there are many more like her.

Another thing we can do to improve our body image is to stop comparing ourselves to others. Easier said than done, I know (I am probably one of the worst offenders for this). But we should know that we are unique.

We can also improve body image by dressing in a way that makes us feel confident. This will be different for everyone. I’m most confident in a funny t-shirt and jeans. Others may prefer a suit. It’s up to you.

Practicing self care can also help with body image. Seeing ourselves as someone who is worth treating nicely and respecting our bodies will have a positive impact.

For more information on body image check out National Eating Disorders who have lots of information (you don’t need to have an eating disorder to have a problem with body image). Feel free to share your experiences and tips for better body image in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

An Open Letter To Instagram

Dear Instagram

I have recently been made aware that you are hiding the recent posts with mental health hashtags. I feel this is totally unacceptable on many levels.

I understand that you have done this in the name of safety, but in actual fact you are making things a lot less safe for those with these conditions. Social media by its nature is made to connect people and by eliminating these hashtags you are removing people’s ability to connect with others who have the same condition or who are going through the same thing. This creates a feeling that people are alone in their struggles and can’t see how other people deal with the condition. This could lead to more feelings of suicide and self harm as they try to cope alone.

Another issue I have with you removing these hashtags is that you are eliminating the chance of people sharing positivity among the mental health community. Many people who use these hashtags share uplifting quotes, ways they cope and general support and awareness. By stopping this you are leaving people with the negativity of the illnesses they endure.

Furthermore on researching this I found that it was still possible to use hashtags for physical illnesses. This shows blatant stigma towards those of us with a mental illness. Yes, mental illness sees people who have a symptom of suicidal ideation, but this can also be caused by people experiencing a physical illness. Mental health is important and equal to physical health.

If you want a truly safe community then your aim should be to moderate posts better rather than a blanket bam on mental health hashtags. Yes there may be individual posts that are damaging to those in a vulnerable state but your aim should be to target these posts and leave the useful and positive posts attached to the hashtag. This could help those who are unwell.

I hope you take this on board. You can contact me via the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Why I don’t blame social media

There has been a lot in the news about how social media has a negative effect on mental health and it has even been blamed for the suicide of a 14 year old girl (check out the story here). However I personally don’t feel that social media is being given a fair trial and is not to blame, at least not solely.

There are many other things that have helped cause the increase in mental illnesses among young people. These are things that seem to have been overlooked in place of blaming social media outright. Social media feels like a lazy excuse for the ever-growing problem of mental illness among young people.

One major reason for the increase in suicide rates among teenagers (for statistics look here) is that they are unable to access the mental health care they desperately need. Waiting times have increased for therapy, if teenagers even get as far as being referred for it in the first place. There seems to have been a shift in what children will be accepted for treatment by CAMHs (Child and Adolescent Mental Health services) meaning that many slip through the net. Why is this the case? Put simply it is a lack of funding for mental health services as a whole.

Having a lack of CAMHs services also means that children and young people are having to get worse before they are considered for care. This means they’re in a worst place to start with when early intervention could stop them reaching crisis point. This could shorten the length of time they need support or lower the intensity of the support they require as well as preventing serious self harm and suicide.

Another reason for the rise in the number of suicides among young people, in my opinion, is the school system and the constant criticism that it brings. Everyone says that things are easier for young people these days and that the education system is too easy. For someone going through the system and hearing this makes you feel like a failure especially if you are struggling. This isn’t helped by the pressure from teachers. This isn’t the fault of the teachers. They themselves are under huge pressure to get results and meet targets, so obviously the pressure gets passed on to the students.

I’m not saying here that social media has no part in the rising tide of suicides among young people. Obviously with cyber bullying there is not the escape from bullies that you would get in previous generations. It is constant. But blaming the images of self harm and suicide quotes on Instagram I feel is taking the blame too far. There must be something wrong before they see the images to make them go looking for these images. Also these images are available on the Internet via a Google search not just social media.

Social media also has some positive effects on mental health. There is a very supportive community on the different social media platforms. There is also advice and information about different mental illnesses available via social media. Also it can help those struggling feel less alone and can encourage them to talk and get help.

I know my views may be controversial but I felt I needed to share them and I would love to hear your thoughts either in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest