How using social media helped my mental health

                    Guest Post by Jennifer Richards

I’m from the generation that’s grown up with technology, where ‘Facebook me’ is a normal way to end conversations, and your friend will tell you Happy Birthday in person, by text, on your Facebook wall and maybe even direct message you on Instagram and Twitter too.

The rapid growth of social media that accompanied me into adulthood never really seemed too shocking, until I look back now and realise that the rise (and now possibly fall) of Facebook happened in just 15 years.

When I think of parties during my time at school, I automatically think of the following morning, when I’d scroll through the pictures I’d been tagged and decide which to make my profile picture. And now there’s Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and so many more platforms out there. And the toll all these social media platforms are taking on our mental health has been widely documented.

The average Brit checks their phone as much as 28 times a day and in March, a survey found that more than 41% of my generation (Generation Z) said social media platforms made them feel anxious, sad or depressed. People sharing the highlights of their lives sets an unrealistic expectation you can’t help but compare your own too, and the abuse people face online only seems to be getting worse.

Though I won’t deny all these problems that do come with social media, I also have so much to thank it for. And even though I sometimes find my finger hoovering over the Twitter icon, ready to delete it, I always stop, knowing I’d just re-download it seconds later.  Because I owe social media a lot for the support and opportunities it’s given me.

It connects me to others in a way that was impossible to imagine not so many years ago. As a kid, when I struggled to fit in, I found my own community on social media platforms, and accessed support I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to.

I don’t think I would have come out at LGBTQ+ without Twitter. In my hometown, I struggle to think of anyone I knew who was LGBTQ+ but, just by searching the hashtag #queer on Twitter, I realised that there are millions of people out there just like me. Curious, questioning and searching for confirmation that what they are feeling is completely normal. And seeing all the accounts staring back at me with the rainbow flag in their bio made me realise that I had a community out there, even if, for now, it was just online.

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And if you are more of an introvert like me, asking for help online seems a lot less intimating  than doing it in real life. Just from scrolling through the Twitters or Facebooks of mental health organisations, I can find tips for how to manage when I may not be having the best day, as well as a reminder that I’m not alone in dealing with mental health issues.

Social media is powerful in that it’s given people a voice in a way that just wasn’t possible before. A way to share our stories and connect with others. That’s why here at Wish we want to use social media to Turn Up The Volume on women’s voices who experience mental health issues and have struggled with our inadequate mental health system. Our Women’s Mental Health Network (WMHN) was set up to listen to these voices and drive forward a change in the system where they’re listened to and the services are built round what’s actually needed.

Not only that, but we want to stop the stigma that exists around talking about our mental health. Share your story with us using the hashtag #TurnUpTheVolume and let us know what changes you want to see in our mental health system.

And the next stage of our Network will involve us reaching out to 5000 women and asking them to identify the top three issues that we need to campaign to change, and we will then be driving this change forward. If you would like to be part of this consultation, please email us at womensmhnetwork@gmail.com

And if you want to join us in celebrating female voices, and how we use our voices to speak out about mental health, join us for our Turn Up The Volume event on Friday 8th June, where we’ll have a variety of female poets, comics and musicians performing in aid of our WMHN.

Hope to see you there!

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