Today’s blog was prompted by a recent experience of a family member. I will explain a little more at the end of this piece. Reflecting on this event I started to think about the hazards of social media groups aimed at supporting people with mental health.
There are of course lots of benefits to groups. From sharing learnings, building community, fundraising or tackling stigma, to name but a few. However with all of these groups and even blogs like mine should always be approached with an element of caution. Here are my tips for navigating the world of social media support groups.
Advice is Only Advice
Always remember advice is only that. You don’t have to act on it. You should always consider what is right for you. and what is right for one person is not always right for another. Advice is great when you receive it with an open mind and take time to reflect on how that could relate to you and your circumstances. Personally I am now at a stage in my life where I never accept unsolicited advice and when I do solicit it I am learning about the importance of asking for it from the right place.
Moderators are often untrained
Remember that most of these groups are moderated by untrained people. They should not diagnose or council. And they often have their own issues. Be careful with what you expect from the group and be cautious of people or groups with a negative agenda.
Be careful with your personal information
Always important online. But even more so in an environment with lots of people you don’t know. Have you ever for example shared something as simple as “oh my gosh today is the big 30.” That alone would tell someone your full date of birth. This coupled with your name, can be the start of a scammer targeting you.
Make sure to get help from the right place.
If you do need help make sure you are getting it from the right places. Remember these groups are often not run my trained professionals. There are lots of avenues for support. A group that sign posts to other sources of support is doing the right thing.
Think about what you need from the group
Think about where you are on your journey and what you need from the group. Are you hoping to learn more about mental health, are you looking to improve yours, do you want to share your experiences. Depending on your answer to this question you should change which groups you join.
For example at my lowest point a lot of mental health focused groups were a big no. For some people they find that sense of I am not alone beneficial, for me the stories just made my anxiety worse. I needed groups that were much more positive. Now I am in a stronger place I try to get involved in more groups where I can help share my journey.
The vibe of a group and its purpose does vary massively. It is worth thinking about what you need and are you getting your needs met?If not leave.
Be cautious of being triggered
Never go into the group when you are feeling vulnerable you don’t know what will be posted and you could find yourself struggling more. I appreciate for some people these groups are the best connection they have with the world. That is so hard and when you feel you are struggling the support they offer can feel like a life line.
If you are in a difficult place I would suggest you look for some other options of ongoing support. Unfortunately in my experience a thousand comments telling you, ‘you can get through this’ at best has a very short term effect, at worst can make someone feel even more strongly they are failing. Social media groups are not a substitute for ongoing therapy or support.
Please be kind.
And now we are back to why I started this weeks blog. It was my wonderful little sister who was the target of an unkind or perhaps an thoughtful moderator this week. She had posted something in the group, not targeted at anyone just talking about a TV show. It seams the moderator went to town having a go at her about how she should have posted a trigger warning.
This may very well of been sensible to do but would it not also be sensible to treat each other with kindness and respect. Kindness costs us nothing. We never know what anyone else is going through. We should always be kind to each other.
Don’t let this put you off. The world of social media groups can be exciting and interesting. Can broaden your thinking and give you new ideas. Have fun looking for a group that fits you. Perhaps you could follow The Happy Path on Facebook.