Supporting practitioners to make sense of social media in mental health practice

I use every opportunity to chat to people using and working in mental health services about social media. And what I experience is disconnect. Many practitioners are fearful. Many more are excited by the possibilities but not sure where to start. A smaller number are already confidently using social media to connect, network and innovate. Most are predominantly thinking about their use of social media in relation to personal/professional identity and ensuring their online behaviours are consistent with guidance from their professional body or organisation.

What I see much less of, is practitioners having the opportunity to consider how social media may form a part of their toolkit – helping people think about recovery in the context of their online as well as their offline lives and the interplay between the two. At the same time I see many people with lived experience using all sorts of social media to take control, connect with peers, campaign, have fun and develop.

There is where I see the disconnect and this is where the idea for Social Media in Mental Health Practice came from – a desire to capture many of the fantastic ways in which social media are already being used, to amplify, and to give practitioners ideas and tips about how they might incorporate this knowledge into their day-to-day practice. It isn’t a ‘how to’ book and it isn’t about professional identity. Its purpose is to help mental health practitioners who are new to social media, consider the possibilities and the challenges, by finding out from those who are already innovating – both people using mental health services and people working within them.

I am always struck by the kindness and supportiveness of the community I have discovered in social media spaces – particularly Twitter. Victoria, my co-author and @nlightspr on Twitter, and I could not have written this book without the generosity and willingness of many people to share their experiences – this in itself is a testament to the positive potential of social media. We are also incredibly grateful to Helen Bevan, chief of transformation at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, for supporting and funding the development of this e-book – another person who I initially connected with on Twitter.