panel discussion on mental health and blogging

northern voice blogging conference in vancouveryesterday i told you about coping digitally, a panel discussion about mental illness and social media that i’ll be part of at this year’s northern voice blogging conference here in vancouver this coming friday and saturday (february 20 and 21, 2009). it was airdrie’s idea to begin with; the other person who will participate is tod maffin.

tod maffin is a national CBC radio broadcaster and a busy international keynote speaker. in 2005 he suffered a debilitating depression and addiction and is working to recover through his writings online.

airdrie miller will be the moderator. she is a vancouver public school teacher,
blogger and podcaster who shares openly abut her own battle with unipolar depression. she is passionate about breaking the stigma of mental illness.

the conference is just about the best bang for anyone’s buck – high quality and fabulous food for a ridiculously low price – so it sold out in two days.  a full list of speakers and presentations is listed here.

i’ve already asked a few people what they think might be good topics to discuss at the panel. here are a few:

sandra from psych central made a few suggestions already, via twitter:

  • commenters/bloggers making “antipsychiatry” suggestions (“don’t take medication” or “you don’t need to see a professional”)
  • trolls on mental health blogs
  • online communities forming among people dealing with depression

blueberrio asked:

  • what problems has being out caused in personal and professional life?
  • blogging for enhance mental health, or blogging about mental health issues?

finally, a post from my blogging friend revellian:

i have a lot of blogging friends who suffer depression, ptsd, addiction recovery and a myriad of other problems-many far worse than anything i’ve ever been through. many have built their entire sites around depression and so forth. my question to them is how long must it go on? when you reach the point of truly getting over your problems and the healing is done, what happens next? some people may never find solace in their minds and struggle for the rest of their lives. i decided that will not be me. i will be free of this hell. i will be healed. there is only so much catharsis a person should have to experience before an apex occurs . . . right? there came a point where empathy of others and writing about my own problems made me feel like a cry baby . . . it’s a weird realization, but that’s what happened.

here’s my question to you:

blogging and mental health (and that includes addiction and eating disorders) – what would YOU like to see discussed at the panel?

northern voice collage by injenuity

72 thoughts on “panel discussion on mental health and blogging

  1. Great questions, and ones I’ve been pondering myself. In the midst of writing an article on how to utilize twitter for mindfulness and reflection in both typical and therapeutic settings. Regarding web communities, not sure if you saw the NYT article last year on web communities and peer-reinforced delusion; it might be worth it. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/13/fashion/13psych.html

    I suppose the question on this topic that I struggle with most is: on an internet quickly moving towards a more participatory model, how can we ensure access for and protect the mentally ill?

    Ian’s last blog post..Psychodynamics of Meditation Lecture

  2. @ian, thanks for the link to the NYT article.

    let me follow up your question with another, if i may: who are “the mentally ill”?

    @alex always good to hear from you! could you elaborate a bit on how blogging is therapeutic for you?

  3. isabellla: “could you elaborate a bit on how blogging is therapeutic for you?”

    Alex: My blog explores current cultural issues and global crises. It works to supply spiritual solutions for the issues and crises. In the process of researching our global family, identifying issues/crises, and finding spiritual quotes to induce a higher perspective, I work through my own spiritual challenges, issues, and crises–“As Above, So Below”–as is in my global family, so is it in me…

    Alexander M Zoltai’s last blog post..Repression . . .

  4. Isabella: excellent question. It’s hard to apply the DSM’s distress/disability model, “harmful dysfunction” or “significant restriction” classifications to virtual identities because we only see a very small part of the picture; the social practices that they might be restricted from in real life aren’t apparent over DSL. Some social practices they may be restricted from online aren’t common in real life.

    I suppose in the context of this question, we’d have to take a God’s-eye view of it and include both online and offline personality. So, the mentally ill are those diagnosed or diagnosable in offline settings, who I feel are more vulnerable to both disenfranchisement (being left behind by technology) and distress (being aggravated by interactions facilitated by that technology) than average internet denizens as the web becomes a much more interactive environment.

    Ian’s last blog post..Psychodynamics of Meditation Lecture

  5. Thank you Isabella! It’s really an honor to be mentioned as you have and offer really sound and professional advice. I learned about mental health not because I wanted to, but because I had to. If I lived closer, I would attend.

    I really liked Sandra’s suggestions. I’ve stated on my site that medications didn’t help me, but would never suggest others to follow the same route as we all have different problems. Getting professional help did help me tremendously–especially in group therapy. It helped a lot to listen to and share with others and be guided by a compassionate pro. I can honestly say that happiness is possible for all of us no matter how bad it seems in those dark days (or decades in my case).

    It seems almost like I learned to not care about some things or to not take everything so seriously. In a way, it defines “the cure” for me.

    Have a great conference and I look forward to reading about it:)

    Bobby Revell’s last blog post..Symphony of Love

  6. I hope this is the beginning of many more hard looks at the blog world, or the Internet in general, as it related to mental health issues.

    The proliferation of blogs cataloging the lives and suffering of those with mental illness is uncharted territory. The same can be true regarding the many sites offering solutions to any of life’s problems. These range from traditional “snake oil” to ones that may be very helpful to a number of people.

    The danger lies in the simple fact that there is no standard, regulation, required training, etc… We are still a culture that gives too much credibility to the printed word. Many may not understand that a blogger is not necessarily an expert, yet since their words are right there on the screen, they must be true.

    I am not advocating censorship or regulations but there needs to be a discussion on how or if we can protect the more vulnerable from ending up as victims by their own doing or others. The answer may very well be that we cannot but the discussion may lead to more effective ways of treating these individuals after the fact.

    The digital world is coming of age and the mental health community needs to be very open to the benefits and pitfalls we will encounter.

    My guess is that the DSM will not be getting smaller any time soon as we find new issues related to the new medium. I look forward to reading about the debate.

    Namaste

    Roger’s last blog post..What Is It You Want Most From Life?

  7. An interesting post and question to be sure. I don’t have much to offer since I am not a mental health blogger per se. Instead, I am someone who has benefitted from psychiatry and psychology and lived to make a difference in his world.

    Many famous contributors to man’s ascent have been bipolar or unipolarly depressives. I would like blogs to mention more about the amazing visions of people like Edgar Allen Poe, Carrie Fisher, and the long list of other famous people who have given without focusing on their disorder.

    To that woman who says “when will it end” with regards to mental health blogs etc I say this: “When there is a cure for mental illness then it should end.” If she feels there is a cure currently, she is deluded beyond whatever mental illness she thinks she has. Like diabetes, mental illness is a disorder by genetics that must be treated, often with drugs and usually with life-long psychotherapy.

    When the mood thermostat is broken, you can’t just one day just resolve to stay at room temperature. Thanks for letting me put my 2 cents in on metal illness Isabella. Have a great time at the conference.

    Damien Riley’s last blog post..Amazing Vision Blog Carnival

  8. @alex thanks! i like your “big picture” view!

    @ian happy that you like the conversation 🙂

    you say “the mentally ill are those diagnosed or diagnosable in offline settings, who I feel are more vulnerable to both disenfranchisement (being left behind by technology) and distress (being aggravated by interactions facilitated by that technology) than average internet denizens”

    i’m gonna pile more questions on you: who is the average internet denizen? and have you read tod maffin’s blog (link in the post)? would you say he is disenfranchised? if so, how?

    @bobby, thanks for your input!

    @roger, thanks for bringing up the issue of credibility. what do we do about sites that proclaim that vitamin X will cure you? i think it’s related to helping people becoming more educated in science and critical thinking. what’s your opinion?

    @damien thanks for the suggestion to look more at the lives of famous people who lived with serious mental health challenges.

  9. I believe that there is an incredible upside to “digital therapy”. I don’t mean therapy in the traditional sense which is more needed than ever.

    The more educated we become, the more accepting of the reality of mental illness we also become. It was not that long ago that we simply locked the mentally ill away so we never had to see it. We can see the remnants of this in every city.

    The stigma of mental illness in my opinion is as damaging as the disease itself. As we continue to educate ourselves and others to remove some of these stigmas, I hope people will seek help sooner leading to more effective treatment.

    We cannot stop an explosion of bad information. I think that we have to self police as much as we can. When we run across blatantly wrong information, we need to try and correct the author. Often these people are well meaning and are unaware that the information is wrong. If we run into an exploitation scheme, we need to take it to a legal authority.

    People in the digital age are becoming smarter. They also run the risk of becoming disconnected. All we can do is give the best advise we can and hope it sinks in.

    Thanks for opening up this topic.

    Roger

    Roger’s last blog post..What Is It You Want Most From Life?

  10. Isabella:
    The average internet denizen would, I imagine, be someone lacking observable mental illness, able to participate in all typically available social practices both in the real world and online. I suppose I would’ve done better labeling the population “typical” rather than “average” though, as I’m making a big assumption regarding normalcy.

    I read a bit of Maffin’s blog (have plugged it into my RSS reader, as I’m intrigued by it). I don’t particularly think he’s disenfranchised in the manner I’m talking about, considering he has such a tangible connection to the technology. My aim is more towards the person who doesn’t see how they can utilize it to express themselves or self-actualize or how it could be an adjunct to therapy; or conversely, the person whose distress increases partly due to using the technology (as in peer-reinforced delusions, one-upmanship in “I’m more depressed than you are” virtual community interactions, etc).

    I also agree with Roger that this is a matter of stigma and of global education. Made me think of doing a project recreating Rosenhan’s “On Being Sane in Insane Places” study, re-evaluated and refit for a virtual world instead.

    Ian’s last blog post..Tom Yeomans, Ph.D., on Spiritual Psychology

  11. There are two (broad) sides to this discussion, I assume: (1) writing the blog and (2) reading blogs, websites, discussion forums, and the like. Is this an accurate perception?

    Writing a blog is electronic journaling with a potential or intended audience. Some people blog without a filter. Others, like myself, blog with the intent (not always fulfilled, I’m sure) of putting a more positive, proactive spin. “Here’s the problem, what am I going to do about it?” Or, “here’s some psychological info that could be helpful for you.”

    So for me, blogging has a dynamic, moving-forward spin. This, for me, is the therapeutic twist that goes beyond simply stating & restating the problem. I would love to see a discussion of how blogging is a more/less helpful medium compared to private journaling.

    The readers of blogs and health oriented websites get the benefit of free, private therapy knowledge. The benefit of information. The benefit of having their symptoms and struggles normalized.

    I know I often get a feeling of relief when I read someone else describe a struggle that I am privately experiencing. This validation is priceless, and one piece of professional therapy that patients find so helpful. “Oh good. It isn’t JUST me.” I spend a lot of therapy time reminding my clients that they are not the most broken, damaged soul on the planet. So the cyber world helps provide this validation.

    On the downside — too much of a good thing is not therapeutic. Too much time in front of a computer screen can lead to diminished “real life” social relationships. I enjoy my blog “friends” but I don’t get many of the benefits of socializing. They can’t watch my dog when I go out of town. They can’t drive me to the airport. They can’t give me a hug when I’m down. They can’t accompany me to a festival or other pro-social outing.

    Now, when I meet people online who live nearby? Great. But that hasn’t happened terribly often for me. Not yet. And there have been times I’ve met internet friends and been disappointed. We don’t “click” in real life.

    On another tack, years ago I read about a study which said that too much time online was correlated with increase in depression symptoms. I understand this. The social aspect already mentioned. Then there is too much time online leading to a failure to take care of normal business, daily life tasks. My overflowing laundry is a good example. I speak from experience!

    Another downside of internet life — the ease of deception. People taking on a certain persona for whatever reason – to get attention or to conduct some type of perpetration.

    I believe my comments and observations are fairly concrete. I hope this is still helpful.

    phd in yogurtry’s last blog post..strung out on black

  12. I saw that you mentioned briefly pushing vitamin ‘X’ at you. I have had problems with people pushing every miracle cure out there on me, on everything from twitter to my blog to my online communities. I don’t mind investigating alternative therapies or researching different angles, but ANYTHING that says it has a 100% success rate needs to get out of my site. Unfortunately, it is not just spam, but well meaning real people doing this, often in response to extremely painful personal posts.
    Another issue that I have accepted as a price you pay for blogging is when a post is used against you in real life. My son’s provider actually started reading my blog a couple years ago, and used some posts to try to have my children removed. It was not successful, and never posted about for obvious reasons.

    The last issue which may not apply to everyone is because I blog about raising my son. I try to post in a strength based, respectful way about our challenges, but I am human. I worry about multiple issues, including him reading it (I have invited him to do so, but only if he does it with me and we can talk about things as he does. He declined) and things I write changing the way the world views or treats him.

    I don’t think I asked any questions, but maybe some of my struggles bring some to mind.

    This sounds like a great opportunity, Isabella. Enjoy the conference.

    Krista’s last blog post..AZCentral: Uncle Jay’s News Story

  13. Used properly, there are clearly good things about having information, both professional and personal available. The trick is in the interpretation and validity of the information.

    We don’t have the answers to most of the questions regarding the psychological aspects of blogging. It’s just too new. I would caution anyone who gets too personal on a blog to think about what the long term ramifications to this could be for them. There is no clear answer.

    We can talk for hours about the dangers of self diagnosis from an informational website or a post that we relate to. The drug companies work hard for us to do this now and every medical doctor I know struggles to deal with the problem of patients who just “know” they have the problem they saw on TV. Talk about ethical grey areas!

    We are just beginning the exploration into this phenomenon we call virtual life and we will have to deal with it as we know more. In the mean time, let the buyer (reader/blogger) beware.

    Roger’s last blog post..What Is It You Want Most From Life?

  14. from my own experience of seventeen years of PTSD:

    my mental health is enhanced by the presence of blogs; blogs to read and blogs to comment on, like this one, and blogs to post to; my livejournal blog being one of them. when i overuse the internet, it is because i am feeling overly anxious, and i underfunction in my life, but before the internet was in my home, i would also underfunction in my life when my mental health was not strong.

    sometimes i need support. sometimes my need for support seems overwhelming. at those times, the telephone, email and social media such as blogs on the internet fill in the gap and give me a reality check while i wait for a specialized resource (like therapy) to be available.

    jael’s last blog post..meme

  15. Huh. Reading these comments I’m struck by the different paradigms.

    I don’t think in terms of “mental illness”. I think in terms of “personal growth”. I don’t see depression as a “disease”. I see it as an indicator of and learned response to stress and a way my body tells me when I need to look at some thing I’ve been ignoring. I’m not “broken” and I don’t need a “cure”. I’m in the process of living and this is part of the way my body functions. How I respond to it determines my experience with it – whether my depression helps me live a richer life or not is up to me.

    I think when you see depression as an “incurable illness”, you’re a lot more likely to experience it that way, and get stuck in that idea of reality which becomes self-perpetuating. On the other hand if you see it as an indicator, a message from a part of yourself to pay attention, then you also see it as something that will subside if you address it – like a kind of hunger. It’s more of a spiritual way of looking at it vs. pathological. It works much better for me.

    When I see people speaking of what other people need to be protected from, I’m reminded of the symptoms of codependence. Yes, there are people with diminished capacities, but most people on the internet surfing for info about healing probably suffer from too much victim-thinking rather than too little. And I’d rather everyone learn to take information and suss out if it applies to them than rely on “experts”. Perhaps the peer-based nature of the web will train everyone to rely more on their own intuition and good sense and stop handing over responsibility for their happiness to other people, no matter how “expert” they are.

    I notice a weird phenomenon among some counselors and therapists – the tendency to talk as if “they” have inside information and “we” (the unaware and vulnerable public) need to be in some way protected from information or ideas that only therapists can handle. In reality, therapists are people too. And the “rest of us” are just as capable of determining if information makes sense. Perhaps instead of ‘protecting’ people you could try ’empowering’ them to make up their own minds. Oh, but that means they might not just take your advice wholesale either!

    Being a therapist doesn’t give you an inside line to God. Everyone is on the same playing field. Diagnosing someone else gives the diagnoser a false sense of superiority which is really bogus. Naming a symptom is great, but to then decide you know what is best for someone else is hubris, IMHO. And worse than that, it violates that person’s autonomy.

    I’d love to see the blogging culture subvert the dominant therapeutic paradigm.

    Emma McCreary’s last blog post..Popularity vs. Life: Following Your Internal Nudges

  16. Emma, I agree with you on many points; especially that therapists don’t have a holy batphone or the latest insider trading tips from god. But I think their inclusion in events like the panel described is both important and helpful. Important first, because while they don’t have a private line to god, they’ve got work experience that we can all benefit from. Helpful, I think, because dialogs like this (when facilitated correctly) teach them as much as they’re teaching us.

    I also agree to a point about outlook on depression; it’s not always evil, but it’s not always instructive either. I’m a huge fan of the discipline of spiritual psychology, which takes a much more holistic look at the issue, but I think we also need to acknowledge the existence of pathology in many cases. It’s the study of damage, be it to the psyche or the spirit; they don’t have to be opposing disciplines.

    And unfortunately, we need to acknowledge vulnerability. The mentally ill are statistically more likely to be victims of crime than your average American. Add to that the effects of mental illness on income (and the reverse, so it becomes a vicious circle) and you’ve got a recipe for disaster if it’s not factored into the equation. It’s important to recognize though, that they’re factors; they’re not the whole equation.

    I don’t think anyone is looking to tell someone what to do here, or limit them; for my part, I’m just trying to brainstorm, and make sure my people aren’t left behind or left more prominently exposed due to emerging technology. As a clarification, I’m a mentally ill blogger myself; clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

    Reassessing and demolishing paradigms is good, but we need to acknowledge the importance of work experience and empirical study (among many other things) if we’re going to do it right.

    Ian’s last blog post..Rosenhan?s Experiment and Social Media

  17. Emma: ‘I don’t think in terms of “mental illness”. I think in terms of “personal growth”. I don’t see depression as a “disease”. I see it as an indicator of and learned response to stress’

    This statement only serves to perpetuate the stigma of mental illness. Clinical depression has many causes — and yes therapy to change learned responses can help. However, in many cases medication is the best treatment.

    airdrie’s last blog post..Coping Digitally

  18. @airdrie and @emma you might be interested in this post, two views of depression.

    could you explain, airdrie, how seeing depression as a stress response perpetuates stigma?

    @ian, thanks for bringing up the economic aspect of mental illness (and, i would add, of ANY chronic illness). the impact and implications of that tend to be as overlooked as the impact and implications of living with serious mental health issues.

    to illustrate that – a person who doesn’t understand anorexia will often tell a person with an eating disorder to “just eat more”. if it was that simple!

    this is very similar to telling a person who is under severe stress from depression and, say, single parenting, to “just take a vacation” when there isn’t even enough money to put gas in the tank.

  19. What I disagree with is the idea that we need to call something an illness to take it seriously.

    I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life; right now I go to therapy and I take medication. I’m not against any form of effective treatment for any kind of painful condition.

    But I don’t think that I need to call myself “mentally ill” to give myself what I need and seek any and all healing methodologies available to me.

    It’s one thing to call something a mental illness – and it’s another to start creating a class of people called “the mentally ill” and then ascribing characteristics to them as a group.

    The arguments I’ve heard here so far all involve “taking it seriously”. I would never, and haven’t ever, underestimated the pain and struggle of depression – why would I, I have gone through it myself. But I don’t need to create a label to validate my experience or have compassion for other people going through it.

    I find this happens in all groups who have validation needs that go unmet (commonly called “marginalized people” although that, again, turns unmet needs into an identity).

    Depression is painful, anxiety is painful, all of these things are painful and real and serious. That doesn’t mean that I need to identify with that pain as a part of who I am. I think doing that doesn’t aid healing but rather inhibits it. Investing in an identity and defending it inhibits spiritual growth; to invest and identify with a painful state inhibits healing it.

    In other words, people have depression. That doesn’t make them “depressed people”. Just like people have broken arms. They are not
    defined by them. You don’t say “broken armed people”, as if we could describe them all the same way. Because they aren’t all the same. A white guy in New York with a broken arm is probably a lot different than a black woman in Kenya or a schoolgirl in Kansas with a broken arm. Depression and all mental “issues” manifest in just as many myriad ways. And each depressed person is an individual, and when that gets lost, true compassion disappears and is replaced with pity and sympathy.

    Psychology started out as a way to classify people. That’s it’s strength, but I think we need to question what the point of that strength is. Who does it help?

    I realize that it challenges the entire bedrock of the psychology industry (yeah, I said industry), but it bears examination if our purpose is really to heal.

    Regarding stigma, I think grouping all people with unhealed mental stuff as “mentally ill” increases stigma, not decreases it. It gives us a handy hook to hang stereotypes on.

    I’m willing to stand in my pain and with the pain of others without needing to label them (unless it truly helps them in some way – I do think naming something does sometimes help, for validation’s sake). But when that naming becomes a cloak we wear around us, it binds us to an identity that is too small for our souls.

    The other problem I see with the label “mentally ill” is that it misses the fact that ALL of us suffer from mental and emotional pain. Every human being suffers – that is the insight that is the foundation of Buddhist thought. It’s what compassion is based on. I don’t think creating a separation between “mentally ill” and “healthy people” creates more compassion. If anything it creates a stigma among people who want to think of themselves as “healthy” and therefore avoid treatment! What if mental issues were seen as a spectrum and getting help was seen as normal and not a sign of being “mentally ill”? I think that would lead to a lot more people getting the help they need. I know that my own father won’t go to a therapist because of this idea, and I think he could really be helped.

    Lastly, In my own healing, one of the biggest shifts for me was realizing that the things my body and mind learned to do, that are now “issues”, were adaptive and healthy at the time. What I realized is that I am not broken. I am a little bent awry and there are some tangled knots in my head, but the same healthy will to live and survive that decided to shut down and overeat and undersleep and grow self-critical as a kid, to cope with overwhelming pain, fear, and confusion, is still here in me, and still wants to live. It is from our wholeness that we heal, not from our brokenness. If we look in the mirror and all we see is our brokenness, we will *not* heal. We need to be able to see the inherent magnificence of our body’s creative power to adapt to awful situations. It’s in that awe and reverence for our own power that our self-respect blossoms and healing occurs–not in insisting we are broken.

    Ian, I think that while nobody is specifically telling people what to do, the weight of the institution of psychology does push people to think certain ways. Using labels like “mentally ill” introduces a framework and a way of thinking that people often assume is valid without thinking about it. Science and medicine carry a weight in our culture that has consequences. People are discouraged from thinking for themselves and listening to their own sense of what is right for them — if not overtly, then through the collective weight of a hundred years of diagnosis and classification.

    Limits can be overt or subtle. When we live in boxes that define who we are, they shape our thinking and limit what we believe is possible for ourselves.

    I think work experience is great. I don’t know that unquestioned industry experience is great. Some people learn as they work to gradually disassemble their maps and see the landscape with their own eyes. Others get more convinced that their map is reality instead of one (necessarily inaccurate) description. And I think it’s important to question any framework that has as much social, political, and economic clout as modern psychology. Not everyone with work experience has done that questioning…some have gone the other way and defend the system. So experience is no guarantee of clarity.

    I don’t think psychology and spirituality have to be opposing…there are lots of people working to align them. I’m just advocating in this little sphere. =)

    Emma McCreary’s last blog post..Popularity vs. Life: Following Your Internal Nudges

  20. Emma:

    You raise some good points and I have to agree that each of us is responsible to make sure that the information we take in is correct and applicable to our situation. I also think that when any of us recognize misinformation that may be harmful, we have a responsibility to speak up. I am not advocating a blog police.

    The purpose of this discussion, as I see it, is not to discuss labels but to take a hard look the potential impact, good and bad, of blogging about personal struggles over the long term. Discussing it in it’s relative infancy will allow us greater understanding in the long run.

    I hope this is the beginning of the removal of the stigmas which often categorizes depression and other struggles as just another “mental illness”. We still have a long way to go.

    Early treatment, either professionally or spiritually is key in stopping the cycle that can lead to more serious problems. When someone is afraid of being stigmatized, they are reluctant to seek any sort of treatment and continue to suffer needlessly. Many of us have walked down this road and I don’t want others to follow needlessly.

    Continue to question! Even in the most difficult of circumstances, the best answer usually is within ourselves. Sometimes we just need help finding it. We are seeing more focus on the spiritual aspects of healing which I believe has the greatest potential for success.

    Mindfulness and insight healing is the oldest form of therapy and has been long overdue to make a comeback. It’s not about labels, it’s about healing.

    Namaste

    Roger’s last blog post..How Does a Microwave Work?

  21. thanks for the lively discussion!

    here are a few posts on the topic of labeling

    writing our own scripts
    seven ways to rename a mental illness
    escaping the prison of depression

    the latter is part of a cross-blog conversation with catatonickid about language and depression.

    blogging is about language, and labeling is about language, so i see a connection here. ian did, too, in his follow-up post regarding a digital version of the famous rosenhan experiment.

  22. I’m fully aware of the “anti-stigma” language movement. I think it will be great when the word “stigma” is no longer used with respect to mental illness. The word “stigma” used to be used with respect to rape and cancer. No longer. Read the words of Harold Maio — he has educated me. http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&hs=Wfp&ei=aQKbSaKNI8yp-gaqt9mUCQ&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&q=harold+maio+stigma&spell=1

    airdrie’s last blog post..Coping Digitally

  23. isabella – Looking at the conference website, it says your panel will discuss “topics relevant to anyone who ever thought about blogging the hard stuff … but was afraid to try it.” No question in my mind that stigma is the overriding concern, sometimes at work or among friends but also in families. Recently “A Man” commented on my blog about his addiction to online pornography. He is so desperate about keeping this secret that he won’t even buy a book on the subject or take one out of the library for fear of this getting back to his family. He certainly won’t go to a therapist for the same reason. That means he’s cut himself off from all resources and was asking me for help. I’m trying to find online resources on recovery from sexual addiction for him but haven’t turned up many sites so far – though I’m sure there are forums on this, ones that would give him the needed support.

    Stigma is obviously the reason so many bloggers like me have remained anonymous. (I’ve recently been giving this up step by step – though not yet on the blog itself or in comments on similar sites.) When starting, I took great pains to protect my identity, including getting email accounts with false names, locking out viewers from Whois info, etc.

    That would be important to discuss along with the other good topics mentioned.

    Good luck with the panel – I wish I could attend.

    John

    John D’s last blog post..Move in Progress!

  24. Sometimes I second guess myself for being “out” about my depression. But mainly because it makes certain people uncomfortable. I like to be a people-pleaser, not stand-out in a crowd.

    airdrie’s last blog post..Coping Digitally

  25. Darn!! I had a long comment, but didn’t see the question. Everything I wrote has disappeared! But I will try again.

    I feel pretty well the same in every respect as phd in yogurtry does. He/she said:

    “Writing a blog is electronic journaling with a potential or intended audience. Some people blog without a filter. Others, like myself, blog with the intent (not always fulfilled, I’m sure) of putting a more positive, proactive spin. “Here’s the problem, what am I going to do about it?” Or, “here’s some psychological info that could be helpful for you.”

    So for me, blogging has a dynamic, moving-forward spin. This, for me, is the therapeutic twist that goes beyond simply stating & restating the problem. I would love to see a discussion of how blogging is a more/less helpful medium compared to private journaling.”

    Same for me.

    My blog is not anonymous because my purpose is to fight stigma and I believe the only way to do that is to come out of the shadows. I live with bipolar disorder and many of my visitors have the same disease. Using my own name means that I cannot write as I do in my personal journal. As an author I have a reputation to uphold and that’s a good thing. I have to write responsibly.

    I write to encourage my readers and to offer hope. When I’m going through a hard time, I won’t hide it but I always try to put a positive spin on it – for their good and for mine. In that way blogging becomes very therapeutic.

    It’s good to share the bad, along with the good. It shows my readers that I understand. Though I’ve learned to live with my disease, I’m no better than they are.

    The main purpose of my blog is to cut through the stigma – especially the stigma that exists in the Christian church. As a result of this stigma many with mental illness stop going to church. They feel judged there. It’s not uncommon to hear: “Christians don’t get depressed. You don’t need pills, you just need to pray more.” This angers me and my blog has become a place where I can try to educate and where I can support those who have a faith in God but feel rejected by fellow Christians. I can turn my anger into something useful by communicating the truth to those who don’t understand.

    My blog gives me a place to vent once in awhile. It gives me a place to pass along my thoughts to those who might benefit. Although I don’t have as much time as I used to for blogging, I would hate to give it up.

    marja’s last blog post..Understanding people who don’t understand

  26. what a wonderful discussion! it is probably too late to get to you before you leave for the conference, isabella, but here are a couple of my questions:

    1. about the disinhibiting effect of communicating online – it can feel wonderfully freeing to be able to be so open and to receive warm support from strangers, but can does a feeling of exposure sometimes arise which can go beyond discomfort and be crippling? i suppose by definition people don’t blog much about this – they just stop blogging!

    2.the danger of ‘designing a world’ online in which we feel comforted and stimulated etc – it may be very empowering and useful for those of us who have been hurt and feel isolated in the ‘real’ world but may ultimately isolate us from that world, may mean we spend less and less time and energy on real life communication and engagement (at this moment i could be spending time with my daughter!).

    well exactly, i am stepping away from the computer! no. 3 – addiction!

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