On 17 December, I was sitting at home thinking about my depression. I have bipolar disorder, which is well controlled on medication; however, often in the winter I am prone to depression, partly owing to the lack of light. This means things start to feel hopeless and I have less energy. Symptoms of depression affect everyone differently. I had started feeling low and my job is not the most social, so I felt a little isolated.
I’ve been active on Twitter for a while, posting about mental health, bipolar, anxiety and sharing my story with the world via Metro and other newspapers, to battle the stigma. I had a brainwave – why not start a hashtag that can help others share their own experiences of depression? There had to be lots of us out there, feeling the same way and feeling like they needed to talk.
Seeing as waiting list times for therapy are growing longer and longer, I decided to see if others wanted to share what their depression means to them. So, the hashtag #MyDepressionMeans was born.
I shared this message:
‘I’ve been struggling with depression lately but I know how supportive the twitter community is. Thought we could use the hashtag #MyDepressionMeans and share experiences to help everyone feel less alone. #MyDepressionMeans I get up later than normal and feel hopeless. Please Retweet’
To drum up support for the hashtag, I messaged my fellow mental health campaigners and charities to see if they would get behind it.
Amazingly, charities Rethink Mental Illness, the Mental Health Foundation, the Shaw Mind Foundation and mental health publisher Trigger Publishing all got behind it and retweeted to their thousands of followers asking people to share their own experiences.
People from all over the world began sharing their symptoms of depression and what it meant for them. I am amazed that my tweet has been liked nearly 400 times and retweeted over 150 times, with around 450 responses of people sharing about their mental health.
It was important to me that when sharing this, it was done in a safe space. You can never predict if Twitter trolls will hijack the thread, but amazingly there was so much love, support and understanding.
There was an outpouring of hundreds of people, most whom I had never met, sharing about their illness, some of whom had never done so before.
What touched me the most was a video recorded by a woman who was sharing about her depression for the first time – and who was empowered to keep on sharing, owing to the phenomenal response.
By creating the hashtag, I had something people could share. This is down to the incredible mental health community and unique online support network.