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

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


Social Media in Mental Health Practice – online network tools for recovery and living well

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.

This e-book captures a particular point in time – I hope it will quickly become out-of-date and redundant, as more and more mental health practitioners become increasingly familiar with the potential of social media for supporting recovery focused practice.

You can download Social Media in Mental Health Practice here


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  1. Hi Victoria,
    A great resource! and thanks for opening up the toolkit for comments. Hopefully it will encourage conversation with practitioners, people who use mental health services and perhaps even crowd-source and ideas for updates and new case studies.

    In that spirit, an addition to Social Media Basics could be an short overview of Google Plus, for example:

    Google Plus is a social networking website, similar to Facebook launched in June 2011 with over 230 million active users. Features which may interest practitioners include:

    Profile – real names must be used on Google plus, your profile allows you to set levels of privacy, information about yourself and administrative features, such as email alerts.

    Circles – allows you to separate your followers into discrete groups, you choose, for example to separate work from personal conversations; to manage who sees your posts: specific circle(s), individuals or public; and to filter incoming posts from your followers by circle. They can also be used to store draft posts.

    Hangouts – a public or private group video chat with up to 10 participants, via your webcam. Hangouts can also be recorded and the recording shared in a post or via You Tube.

    Communities – a public or private group space to facilitate discussion on a specific topics. Launched in January 2013 it already includes a number of active Mental Health communities, including one for Mental Health Professionals moderated by Maudsley Learning:

    Google Plus is increasingly integrated with other Google applications, like search, Gmail, You Tube and Drive, for document sharing and collaboration, as well as with its Android tablets: (video)

  2. Thank you, Victoria, for having put together such an invaluable resource for all mental health professionals!

  3. Hi Victoria, it would be great to be able to download this onto my iBooks library, but am unable to do so.

    • Hi Amanda

      Sorry you haven’t been able to download it Amanda – I’ll look in to what’s possible.

      Best wishes


  4. Great article 🙂 I work in social media but lost my last job due to schoolboy errors and have just had probation period extended on new job. I have a mood disorder and poor concentration is a symptom. Do I accept that a fulltimejob and disorder are incompatible? Social media has such a massive reach and impact meaning mistakes can’t be made… But I love it. Here is where the two don’t work.

  5. I really like how your guide acknowledges the benefits for both professionals and service users. Found it easy to read, especially the case studies. I’ve referred to it qas a fab resource in a Prezi I’ve developed which I hope will encourage more public health professionals to consider engaging in social media more!

    Here is a link:

    BW, Caroline

  6. Review by Naomi Gilbert @nlgilb – patient educator, Devon Partnership NHS Trust and Rethink Mental Illness

    This e-book is an invaluable resource for both practitioners and people who experience mental health problems. Social media is a dynamic and rapidly changing environment in which peer support is flourishing, and professional-patient boundaries can be broken down in immensely helpful ways. The authors communicate their passion for social media and its potential for assisting recovery throughout the guide.As a user of social media I really appreciated the case studies presenting visuals from an astonishing range of social media tools, from Twitter to Tumblr to Pinterest. I have a few new blogs and Twitter accounts to follow with interest now, thanks to the authors! The e-book provides a thorough overview of different social media tools, which are useful for both novice and more experienced social media users and draws attention to sites such as LinkedIn for professional and personal networking.The e-book’s discussion of the ethics and policies relating to social media use for practitioners is excellent. As a user of both mental health services and social media, I also really appreciated the open discussion of some of the risks and benefits of disclosing experiences of mental ill health online. During my first foray into web forums 8 years ago after experiencing postpartum psychosis, I disclosed many more personal details (such as my child’s name) than I would nowadays. It’s very helpful for practitioners to be prepared for discussing issues around disclosure and boundaries with their clients who may be considering using social media in recovery.The glossary and further reading on the policies of NHS and professional bodies regarding social media are a fantastic additional resource. I would highly recommend this e-book for both practitioners and people interested in mental health. I will definitely be tweeting to recommend the e-book to colleagues involved in patient-led education and peer support.


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