By Amy Kiel
I am a person who is challenged with my own personal mental health issues and I also work to create awareness, share candidly, and inspire others to work to help in the efforts to end stigma and make change in the mental health world. I have identified myself as this kind of person for a couple of years now. It has been a journey from dark times to times of adjustment and learning, to times of managing and living life in a more healthy way. I have a great inner sense or desire to continue sharing and working to bring about a better understanding of mental health, mental illness and mental wellness.
Part of my journey has been participating in social media and more specifically Twitter. It has been a gift to me in a multitude of ways, as I have been able to connect with so many others who are affected by similar health issues and who care about making a difference like I do.
Close to a year ago now, on Twitter, I noticed what felt like a gap. I observed that there was a great variety of people sharing their thoughts and passions about mental health, from those who suffer, those who have a family member who suffers, to those that treat and provide assistance to people who are challenged by mental health issues. I was enjoying the connection with all of these people and the wonderful organizations that work to bring awareness, but I wanted more. The gap I saw was a gap in communication.
I knew that Twitter provided an incredible opportunity for people from all over the world to share resources, and the connections we were making were truly wonderful. I wanted to bring the community together, the mental health community at large, to discuss the issues at hand and how we can utilize social media to make a difference. I wanted to create a space where “mental health and social media converge” and to do this I utilized the Twitter chat.
I had seen a handful of others using Twitter in this way, #hcsm (health care social media) and #tck (The Coffee Klatch) are the main ones that I noticed at that time. I knew that this could be an incredibly useful tool for the mental health community on Twitter as well. With a passion for mental health and a passion for social media, the Mental Health and Social Media Chat (#mhsm) was born. I set up a time and date for the first chat (February 9, 2010), I did a small amount of PR work on Twitter and moved forward with gusto. Each Tuesday evening (at 10pm Eastern) currently at 9pm Eastern, I moderated the chat from the @MHSMChat Twitter account and others would come… to share, discuss, and inspire!
It has developed into a great tool and resource, one that would not be possible without the help of people like Cindy Nelson from @NAMIMass, who tirelessly gives of herself as my schedule has made it difficult for me to moderate the chats on a regular basis. With partners like Cindy and others, we are able to continue the discussions about topics such as PTSD, suicide prevention, mental health and chronic illness, mental health and the media, (to name a few) and how social media plays a role in working to raise awareness and make a difference in the lives of those who are dealing with these issues. It is my vision that the Mental Health and Social Media Chat (#mhsm) will continue and grow, that more people, professionals, activists, organizations and those who struggle with mental health issues, will come together to share and discuss important topics via this platform that we now have.
You can find transcripts from previous Mental Health and Social Media chats at http://wthashtag.com/mhsm. Join the conversation on Tuesday night’s at 9pm Eastern http://www.tweetchat.com/room/mhsm. You will be warmly welcomed!