Today is, apparently, Blue Day 2008. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it sure sounds exciting! (End sarcasm.) Well at any rate before I trivialise the occasion completely, here is what their website has to say about the occasion:
October 10 is World Mental Health or Blue Day! A day when the tech and social media community in Australia can work together to raise the awareness of anxiety and depression. Register your support today.
I like to think I do my part (ahem) to raise awareness of anxiety and depression. Infact here is a short (and incomplete) collection of depressing blog posts and/or videos:
- Professional Widow
- Your Words They Sting
- That’s It. That’s All There Is
- The Sad Clown
- Never Seen Blue
- Hell Hath No Fury
- The Joy Of Shame
- Its My Blog (And I’ll Cry If I Want To)
- A Chill In My Heart
The post titled It’s My Blog (And I’ll Cry If I Want To) seems particularly relevant:
I have been living with this “monster” for too long. The truth is even your friends don’t want to hear that you’re depressed. There’s nothing they can do for you. They don’t know what to say. It just leads to awkward conversation, or the cessation of conversation altogether! I should be over it. I should “get” over it. The truth is I want to know that somebody feels my pain. I want to know that somebody feels bad that I feel bad. Right now it feels as if I am completely superfluous; that, perhaps, if I were to disappear right now into the ether, no one would even notice. Infact some people might even be relieved. And I wonder if that is the reason I want to write this song: that someone might know I was here, that I hurt. Because I don’t want to believe that nobody cares.
But, to my mind, nothing illuminates depression quite like the blues. Indeed, one song in particular. It is called “Trouble In Mind.” I imagine many people have recorded it over the years though the version I am most familiar with is by Nina Simone.
Trouble in mind I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always
‘Cause the suns gonna shine
On my backdoor someday
I’m gonna lay my head
On some lonesome railroad line
Let the 2:19 train ease my troubled mind
I don’t mean to belittle the efforts of the initiative. It is just that my mind is struggling to understand the relationship between promoting awareness and improving the quality of people’s lives. Letting people know I was depressed didn’t have any obvious benefit to the state itself. Certainly (in my experience) it didn’t lead to any further dialogue with anyone. I’m wondering what thousands of blog posts might achieve that couldn’t just as easily be achieved by handing out bumper stickers that read, “DEPRESSION HAPPENS!” Surely that is a foregone conclusion? Surely there are few of us that haven’t had the lived experience ourselves?
Though perhaps I’ve just missed the point. (It wouldn’t be the first time.) If we assume the purpose of the exercise is not to promote the existence of depression as a concept, but rather to connect people with shared experiences and resources that benefit their own mental health and well-being the task suddenly becomes much more pragmatic in nature. Clearly here there are some very useful applications for blogs and social media.
- Shared Experiences: Sometimes there is solace to be had just by knowing you’re not alone and connecting with other people who share similar interests or similar challenges. The nature of most sites allow you to observe others (viewer of a video, reader of a blog) or contribute yourself. Type “Depressed” into YouTube search, for example, and quickly you are presented by people who are genuinely depressed. This isn’t the stuff of nice Public Service Announcement type videos, this is real user-generated content! You will also find more specialised content if you seek it, such as resources relating to specific medical conditions (manic depression, dissociative identity disorder) or living conditions (youth, gay and lesbian, rural living).
- Information: Peter Costello recently remarked on a disagreement (about a historical event) he had with his children. In order to determine who was right, Peter went to his library. His children went to the internet. This is true of a lot of people. The internet has the potential to be a great resource for information on specific conditions and treatments, as well as for practical strategies for coping with stress, trauma and grief. The challenge, I suppose, is that anyone can publish anything, so identifying trusted sources is very important. It may be more comfortable for people to research topics that might have stigma associated with them in this way, rather than borrowing a book from a library or discussing it with a medical profession.
- Interaction: It is my hope that text-based chat programs would be set up to rival the telephone counseling hotlines we are already familiar with. This would be of benefit to people who appreciate the relative anonymity of the internet. It might also be of benefit for people who feel more comfortable communicating via text, or whose living arrangements might make articulating problems and concerns aloud difficult. Similarly, through social networking sites and the blogs and videos mentioned above, individuals can make contact with other people dealing with similar challenges.
- Reference Points: The online world can point us in the direction of resources in the offline (real, or IRL – “In Real Life”) world too. Support Groups. Doctors. Other forms of media not available online (books, DVDs). Being able to identify what is available quickly and easily helps us organise a course of action. Technologies such as Google Maps and WhereIs help us identify where those things are, once we establish what they are!
Can you suggest any other applications for blogs and social media relating to depression and mental health? If so, please your thoughts as a comment.