Sharing your mental health story with others has the potential to be an empowering experience.
Telling your story online can be a way to reach a large audience, it could help people feel less alone and it helps to minimise mental health stigma. It can also help you find a community of support that you trust and lean on.
Telling your mental health story online
It’s important to be mindful when telling your own mental health story online, and to consider a few things.
Know your purpose
Before putting your own stories into words, images or video, think about what you want to say and what you want to include.
Are you looking to raise awareness or help others? Are you looking for support? Are you aiming to do both?
Knowing why you want to share your story before you start putting it together can also help you navigate people’s reactions once you’ve published it.
Think about what you want to say
Once you sit down to write or type it out, consider what you want to say and how you hope your story will help people.
For example, someone might be reading your story who is in a mental health crisis and might not know where or who to turn to, so it might be a good idea to talk about the different support systems that you have found helpful.
Your mental health might change over time, and that’s normal. Some people might think once an issue is identified, someone’s mental health will only improve steadily, but that isn’t always the case. Writing about any challenges you faced in your own journey lets people know it’s okay to move at their own pace and that there is a way to take on challenges when they come up.
It’s also a good idea to keep in mind how you might feel about your story a few years down the line. Consider how much detail you want to go into, and whether or not you would still want this much information shared about your journey after some time has passed.
Use appropriate language
While you might feel good about sharing your story, it’s important to think about how it will make others feel. We want to be able to talk about these important topics without potentially upsetting those who are currently struggling with their mental health.
When sharing your story, use appropriate language, especially if your story talks about potentially triggering topics such as eating disorders, self harm or suicidal thoughts.
Don’t include detailed descriptions of self harm or suicide. For example, if you have experience with self harm, it’s best not to describe the methods you used to self harm or post images related to it because it could trigger someone dealing with similar conditions who sees it.
Read more about the language to use when talking about suicide.
Be honest and have boundaries
If you feel comfortable doing so, try to be as honest as you can when sharing things in your story. Remember, you are telling your story from your own point of view, so you get to be the author of what happened to you.
But, you don’t have to tell all of your story if you don’t want to. You can place boundaries on how much you are sharing, and you don’t have to answer any questions you don’t want to answer once you have published it. You also need to think about who else might be in your story and whether you have their consent to include them in your story – they may not wish to be in it.
Think about your privacy
Sharing your story is a brave thing to do. If you share your own mental health story online, remember that people who aren’t a friend of yours on a social media platform might be able to see it if it is shared.
Remember, you can control how much you decide to share and only you get to decide if you’re comfortable sharing with people you know or don’t know.
Use trigger warnings
If you’re talking about suicide, self harm, eating disorders, or another topic that could be triggering for people who have dealt with these issues, it can be a good idea to include a trigger warning at the start. It gives them the opportunity to scroll past without reading too much, or to prepare themselves before they read it.
To add a trigger warning, you can either say ‘Trigger Warning’ or ‘TW’ at the beginning. Sometimes it helps to also share what the tigger warning is for – for example, ‘Trigger Warning: Suicide’.
Include support services
It’s a good idea to include the name and contact details of support organisations that you found helpful.
You can put it in throughout your story if you are writing a post, or you can put it in at the end if you prefer.
If you didn’t use a support service, you can still link to a list of services to let people know that they are there.
Sharing your mental health story can be a great way to build community and help both yourself and others. Take some time beforehand to reflect, and remember that you and you alone are the author of it.
Telling someone else’s story
If you are telling someone else’s mental health story, it’s important to reflect before you do. Make sure the other person is okay with you sharing it, if they are able to give you their consent, or consider whether or not it’s something they would have wanted if they are not.
For example, if you want to write about someone who has died by suicide, try to be careful about what language you use and what message you are sending. Include information on support services and consider how your post could affect the people reading it.
Write for SpunOut.ie
If you are aged between 16-25 and interesting in sharing your story, we would like to hear from you. Find out how you can get involved with SpunOut.ie as a volunteer. You can choose to publish your story anonymously if that’s what you’d prefer to do.