Mental Health and the Online Community: a Bittersweet Relationship

Recently a celebrity has produced a film whereby she describes social media platforms as being a help and support network for people with mental health problems. Charlotte Walker, a blogger who has bipolar disorder has analysed this.

Speaking from her personal experience she agreed saying it ‘is true that the online mental health community can be an amazing place to go if you’re struggling.’ There have been many articles of recent whereby apps are being created to monitor mental health and other responsive social platforms have been created also to support people with mental health problems, Elefriends with MIND charity is one such platform.

This is still a relatively new and modern take on supporting people. Charlotte described how social media used to be a light hearted place to share trivial things but in 2011 after suffering from a devastating bipolar episode she began blogging. Blogging became her way to process her feelings. The blogs were gaining recognition and they become an important connection to the mental health community.

The community that these blogs reaches out to and connects with are often people in a similar position to Charlotte, sometimes housebound with some debilitating condition and others just not getting the support that they need from friends and family, through no fault of their own. Friends and family can try to help but they can sometimes just simply not know what to say.

The virtual space has become a place where you can say the unsayable and with likeminded people you can be guided through a variety of things from suicidal thoughts, anxiety issues and the most difficult times.

But not everything in this virtual reality is helpful.

There are differences of opinion, disagreements and some general nasty ‘trolls’ out there. The more outspoken a person can be it can cause some unwanted attention and people will have strong differences of opinion and behind the computer screen they will voice this. Charlotte has experienced this first hand with people creating fake accounts to try and undermine her, pretending to be her family and friends.

Having this opposition and nastiness can sometimes cause worsening panic for Charlotte and with the bipolar sometimes paranoia can set in, struggling to separate reality from a product of her own mind. This, obviously, can cause upset and frustration which couldn’t be further from what the community online should serve to do.

The online mental health community can be accessed in a more controlled, regulated forum whereby trolls do not exist and everyone you communicate with is like minded and there for support or to support.