If you are someone who lives with a mental health challenge, and you are on Twitter, I invite you to follow the #MentalHealthDailyCheckin hashtag.
Why? Good question. Here is a quick synopsis of my vision here:
- I will be tweeting regularly using this hashtag on my own mental health challenges. Likely not every day, but as many days as I can. These tweets may sometimes be as simple as “struggling today” or “feeling hopeful” or “I feel like I have been isolating too much” and stuff like that. Nothing fancy.
- I will encourage anyone else who lives with mental health challenges that feels comfortable sharing publicly to tweet using this hashtag as well. Don’t worry about the “Daily” part here. There is no need or expectation to tweet a certain number of times or on any kind of schedule.
- My hope is that people that don’t have the time/energy/inclination to have a blog, podcast, book, or some other more formal means of sharing their experiences will see this as a low-effort opportunity to help normalize mental health related conversations.
- My other hope is that people who are feeling isolated and alone in their struggles will see this as a low-effort opportunity to see actual evidence (in the form of tweets) showing that there are others dealing with mental health challenges. There are others who can relate. That they are NOT alone.
I feel it is important for all who participate to follow some basic guidelines for using the #MentalHealthDailyCheckin hashtag. The idea behind these is to try to make this as safe a space as we can while also keeping things open and honest. I have no intention of being the hashtag police and/or monitoring tweets for adherence to these guidelines. It is up to all of us to take personal responsibility to do our best here.
If you have other ideas for guidelines that are not listed here, please let me know in the comments.
- Twitter, regardless of hashtags, is not a substitute for getting appropriate help from medical and mental health professionals.
- Please remember that this is a public forum, not a closed community. Sharing intimate or graphic details, particularly of traumatic events or experiences, is not a good fit for this effort. Not only does it open you up to more vulnerability than you may be comfortable with, but such details can also be very triggering for people who have had similar experiences.
- Please do not pressure anyone (including yourself) to tweet. Following the hashtag without posting tweets is ABSOLUTELY FINE.
- Please do not use the hashtag for marketing purposes. If you abuse the hashtag for your own personal gain, you will most certainly get blocked and alienate people that might otherwise be interested in what you have to offer.
- Please do not @/mention anyone that has not already shared publicly about their mental health challenges. If someone you know lives with a mental health challenge, it is up to THEM, not YOU, to decided how much they share and where.
- Sharing about coping skills that help you is OK. For example, “I have been practicing Mindfulness lately and found it easier to hold a small object to focus on while I do it” can be helpful.
- However, this is not the place for providing advice. If you find yourself including “you should do X” or “you need to do Y” in your tweet, then it is probably a good sign that tweet is not a good fit for this effort.
Background for this idea
In group therapy settings, it is common to start each session by having each participant share a quick update on how they’re doing/feeling that day, often referred to as the Daily Check-in. Are they struggling? Are they actually feeling pretty good for the first time in a while? Are they “precariously OK” as someone in one of my groups succinctly shared when they were just barely on the OK side of the OK vs Not OK boundary? Note: I actually applauded this person’s choice of words here as there is just so much meaning packed into two words. Just beautiful.
I’ve been pretty open about my mental health challenges over the past few years. My experience of this sharing has been awesome. As a straight, CIS-gendered, white male living well above the poverty line and with great access to health insurance, I come into this oozing privilege from every orifice. I totally get that. I will NOT tell you that this one thing that has helped me is the thing EVERYONE should do. That would be ridiculous and irresponsible.
My goal in sharing my struggles has been and continues to be to help chip away at the stigma that still often gets attached to mental health. This stigma only serves to make it harder for people living with mental health challenges to reach out for the help they need. It keeps folks isolated, alone, struggling in silence. If you are not open to sharing, that is OK. You are not less worthy of love and compassion by preferring to keep mental health struggles private.
I firmly believe that normalizing mental health as being part of health is essential to breaking down stigma and making vulnerable people a little less vulnerable. This effort involves having more conversations that involve mental health. We can make a difference here. I’d love it if you would join me in trying.