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mental health and blogging: a summary of questions

this is a summary of the discussion we had on monday about mental health and blogging. thanks for all the great comments! i will use this as my guideline (guidepost?) for my participation at coping digitally, a panel discussion about mental illness and social media that i’ll be part of at the northern voice blogging conference here in vancouver today.

the motto for my participation:

“therapists don’t have a holy batphone or the latest insider trading tips from god but i think their inclusion in events like this panel is both important and helpful”

here are the questions people proposed to be discussed at the panel:

  • how is blogging an adjunct to therapy?
  • is blogging a more or less helpful medium compared to private journaling?
  • online communities forming among people dealing with mental health issues
  • what are the psychological aspects of blogging and social media in general, and over the long term? specifically,
  • does the flood of information we receive alter the way we think about ourselves/others? how does the inclusiveness of social media break through psychological barriers?
  • how might the increasing integration of mind, real life and technology affect our emotional lives?
  • what about the danger of ‘designing a world’ online in which we feel comforted and stimulated – it may be empowering and useful but can also isolate
  • blogging and language; i.e. the language of “mental illness” vs. “mental health” or “personal growth”; how does language stigmatize?
  • what problems has “being out” caused in personal and professional life?
  • how to deal with commenters/bloggers making “antipsychiatry” suggestions (“don’t take medication” or “you don’t need to see a professional”)
  • how can the blogging culture subvert the dominant therapeutic paradigm?
  • how to deal with trolls on mental health blogs
  • how long to blog about mental health? when you reach the point of truly getting over your problems, what happens next?
  • what happens when a person’s distress increases due to blogging (as in peer-reinforced delusions, one-upmanship in “i’m more depressed than you are” virtual community interactions, internet addiction etc)
  • does a feeling of exposure sometimes arise which can go beyond discomfort and become crippling?
  • many famous people have been bipolar or unipolarly depressives. i would like blogs to mention more about the amazing visions of people like edgar allen poe and the long list of others who have given without focusing on their disorder.

here is what commenters saif about how blogging works with mental health issues:

mental health bloggers as a therapeutic community

  • 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…
  • “here’s the problem, what am i going to do about it?” or, “here’s some psychological info that could be helpful for you.” … blogging has a dynamic, moving-forward spin. this, for me, is the therapeutic twist that goes beyond simply stating & restating the problem.
  • 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.”
  • 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;
  • 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.
    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.

stigma / privacy

  • when starting, i took great pains to protect my identity, including getting email accounts with false names, locking out viewers from whois info, etc.
  • 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.

other comments:

  • 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 more educated we become, the more accepting of the reality of mental illness we also become.
  • 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.
  • there are two (broad) sides to this discussion, i assume: (1) writing the blog and (2) reading blogs, websites, discussion forums, and the like.
  • 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 sight. unfortunately, it is not just spam, but well meaning real people doing this, often in response to extremely painful personal posts.
  • 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.
  • the problem i see with the label “mentally ill” is that it misses the fact that all of us suffer from mental and emotional pain.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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