By Aimee Wilson, Chair
The current theme for Time To Change StoryCamp 2020 is mental health and the media so I thought – as Chair of LEAPS – I would take the opportunity to share my tips on managing your mental health with the content of the media…
1. Find your online tribe
Since being abused, I’ve almost understandably developed a whole host of difficulties around trusting and building relationships with people. I think that this mostly stems from the fact I had grown to respect and trust my abuser before he began hurting me so it left me feeling completely betrayed and incredibly reluctant to trust or rely on anyone ever again.
Then, when my mental health deteriorated, I found the beauty in making friends with those who I could identify with. The realization that speaking to someone who had also been abused, or who had attempted suicide, was reassuring and made me feel less alone in the world; was incredibly beneficial to my mental health on a whole. I think that it helps to know that you aren’t the only person to experience what you have and to feel that you have someone you can talk to who might understand and appreciate things better than those who can’t empathise.
2. If you don’t want to see it, don’t search for it
The thing with social media and the internet that people rant about a lot is the availability of negative content which has the ability to trigger a mental health relapse or encourage unhealthy behaviours. I think this is mainly a concern with content around weight and eating disorders with so many media outlets putting pressure on people (because it’s not all women!) to be ‘thin.’
Whilst that content is readily available, there’s also something to be said about the fact that access to it can be made much easier if you search for that type of information and those images. The thing that I think people forget about this though, is that if someone is looking for this content then they’re typically not doing too well anyway so there has to be an element of responsibility
3. Don’t accept bullying
It’s sad to say, but I think that online bullying and trolling has become so common that some people are almost just accepting that it’s going to happen. It’s almost as though it’s become the norm so much that those being bullied feel that it’s not worth speaking up about it at fear that it’ll be shrugged off because there’s almost the attitude of ‘what do you expect if you’re on social media?!’
I do think I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve managed to talk so openly about my mental health and the abuse I went through and yet I’ve only ever had two or three hurtful comments from strangers. But then, should I say ‘fortunate’ as though I’m almost grateful for those three? I guess it’s more that I’m grateful for it just being three. That doesn’t mean those three occurrences were ok or in any way acceptable though.
I think that online bullying can be so difficult to cope with because it’s almost as though there’s no escape because the bullies can even get to you from the comfort of your own bed in your home.
4. See through a crisis of confidence
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who’ll almost pick holes in any media content they see but if you’re new to social media this can be really debilitating and can knock your confidence quite a bit. Having backlash and being told you’ve said something wrong in a tweet or blog post can leave you so worried that you’ve upset someone and that you’re doing something wrong, that it might make you reluctant to continue producing content.
A crisis of confidence might also come where you’re seeing the content others are creating and making comparisons to your own. I believe that a certain level of inspiration or competition can be healthy where it encourages you to better yourself and what you’re doing. However, it can easily cross a line and become jealousy and resentment if you’re feeling that your content isn’t as good or as popular. I think that over time, with my mental health blog I’m NOT Disordered (www.imnotdisordered.co.uk) I’ve used reading other blogs as inspiration rather than have me feeling inadequate and as though my achievements mean a whole lot less when other Bloggers have millions of readers (I have three quarters of a million!). Whenever I have found myself comparing content, and questioning my abilities, I’ve focused on my passion for blogging and realized that so long as I’m happy and proud of the content I’m producing then that’s what matters most.
5. Choose your battles
With controversial stories being the most popular in any form of media, it’s sort of inevitable that our lives will become saturated with such articles. I think that a lot of the time, the media provider/company are more than aware that their content will cause debates – and sometimes arguments – and have the attitude that it’s better to be talked about even if that talk isn’t positive or complimentary.
Living in such a world where controversial content is so easily accessible, it’s increasingly difficult to refrain from commenting on pieces that you disagree with – especially where it’s an issue that you’re passionate about. And I think that has to be the key motivation when you do speak up, ensuring that it’s something you really care about and which you believe you’d find yourself feeling bad if you were to keep quiet. Almost as though you’d lost all your morals and ethics because you hadn’t voiced your opinion on something you have passion for.
It's also important that you are very aware of the potential backlash you could face and ensure that what you want to say is worth risking that.
I hope this piece has helped people to navigate the media a bit better in learning ways to cope when things become too negative or overwhelming!