Social media & rural mental health

The latest in my Bush Remedies ABC radio (ABC New England North West NSW, Australia)   series about Rural Mental Health goes to air tomorrow morning on the Morning Show with presenter Kelly Fuller (about 0930 live on air) but- you can hear the podcast here sometime tomorrow afternoon…and listen at your leisure.

This time we are talking about how social media can support rural mental health, and in the spirit of rural innovation and  modern social media, I thought I  would integrate it all throughout a number of social media platforms to demonstrate how useful social media can be in the future as we work towards using e-mental health strategies more to positively promote mental health and well-being and encourage recovery… Below are some of the topics discussed in the radio podcast link above… As I hit the ‘publish’ button for this blog – it will also feed into my facebook page Rural Mental Health Nurse and to my Twitter feed – @RhondaWilsonMHN and also to my Linkedin social media newsfeed…. and travel well beyond my immediate small scope of ‘friends and followers’ towards a wider and unknown audience.  In doing this  – I am practicing what I preach…that is being a rural mental health nurse dedicated to promoting mental health well-being and recovery and building a community conversation about rural mental health…. hopefully my little bit contributes usefully to rural communities and rural people 🙂

I also encourage rural people to give social media a go and see if it is useful… it does reduce the travel miles when it comes to finding help, and there are some very good mental health resources on line.

So – here it is:

The iPhone has a lot to answer for – it has changed our world! And for the better when it comes to promoting mental health. Even it’s predecessors of regular old mobile phones have the capacity to do more for the health of the world than anything else ever has before! Bold claim… perhaps – but mobile phones and smart phones have the capacity to put a life saving mental health intervention in the pockets of most people in the world….The potential to save more lives than penicillin.

Mental health distress can be fatal – it is called suicide…. it is preventable. The burden of mental-ill health is fast looming as the next biggest cause of world-wide health burden. By 2020 health researchers predict depression will be the biggest health problem in the world. Depression is a risk factor for suicide. Suicide rates are higher in rural communities.

Mobile phones and smart phones may hold some hope in helping to reduce the impacts of mental-ill health & depression.

Why? How? Because they have the capacity to link people with other people to communicate anywhere, anytime – at the moment and instance of greatest risk, vulnerability and need. There is a hint of protection in that – and that level of protection can be worked in to safety plans for individuals….

Mental health services and clinicians can talk directly to clients; can set up scheduled messages or texts to promote mental health to vulnerable people. People can access facebook, twitter and other apps, and websites to enhance their mental health and even participate in therapy (eg Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) using app downloads. The convenience and privacy of social media and mobile phone mental health promotion is extremely appealing to many people, and it is located a time and place that suit the individual person. So much good is at hand!

What it isn’t.… social media and mobile/ smart phones are not a substitute for face to face mental health clinical help and services – but they are (increasingly) an adjunct to it.

Twitter, facebook and texting are fast becoming the ONLY way to communicate…. so it is important that mental health professionals keep up with the favoured communication pathways for people (and especially young people) and learn how to use social media to clinical effect – the world is changing! Our clients will expect us to change with it!

Twitter and Facebook are popular social media platforms – both have a great deal of positive mental health traffic – which rural people can tap into to build strength, resilience and protection in regard to being mentally healthy and encouraging others to do the same.

Social media and mental health

Nurses are already active in Twitter as mental health advocates for community mental health promotion, and as mental health communicators in both public and nursing conversations in the twitter environment. eg @jamieranse @meta4RN @ACMHN @Patbradley @hollynortham @thenursepath the list could go on and on… you can see many nurses who follow me – or I follow on my Twitter feed if you want to follow some! I am not promoting any particular nurse really – just the nursing conversation that is out there and happening in the public arena for anyone else to see and follow… (Obviously I follow a lot of nurses and vice verse  – because I am pretty passionate about nursing generally – so my feeds are full of nursing talk!) The point is that nurses are some of the leaders in advocating for health and well-being across the social media platforms, and leading the way in many cases, a shift in health conversation and advocacy is in swing.

The use of mobile phones with the ability to connect to the internet (smart phones) is expanding rapidly – 75% of the developed world population has a smart phone.

We now use the internet across an increasing range of mobile devices including smart phones, tablets, and laptop computers  we have the internet in own pockets, handbags, wherever we go…. On our lounge chairs when we watch TV, and on our bedside tables at night. Many people are never far away from the internet…. There are some down sides of this, but like all things it is a case of getting the balance right in life. There is a lot of good being spread in cyberspace as well – and especially in regard to promoting mental health.

In Australia there are about 12.2 million internet service provider subscriptions and half of those are wireless, while three quarters are household subscriptions (Australian Bureau of Statistics., 2013).

In Australia,  there are 17.4 million smart phone subscriptions & a continuing rapid upward rise in this trend (Australian Bureau of Statistics., 2013). A specific shift in digital communication occurred around 2004 with the development of web 2.0, and a further shift towards social media utilisation with the advent of mobile web technology (such as the iPhone) in 2007!

Applications (apps) are readily available for all of these devices.

In Australia, Facebook is used for social networking with 11.5 million Australian users.

Half of Facebook users log on at least daily.

The flexibility of social media participation is entirely at the convenience and control of the user.

Four out of five professionals now use some form of social media and further adoption of this communication style is inevitable.

Social media represents the beginnings of a new era of communication and offers a platform from which health interventions and health communication can develop in the future

There are new potentials for e-health practice which have already commenced and will further develop in the future.

For example, the Suicide Call Back Service (@SuicideCallBack) is a free counseling service for people thinking about suicide or bereaved by suicide.


Many mental health organizations for people what mental health problems, people who care about someone else’s mental health, and have a facebook presence. I counted up how many I like ( I may be a biased example!!) = 23 +…..  But once they are ‘liked’ you receive plenty of positive mental health updates in a newsfeed – every day. Sometimes I share them with my friends or various other facebook groups that I am part of…. It all builds the mental health conversation….. I would encourage everyone using facebook to ‘like’ at least one mental health promotion page…..

Here is some of my ‘like’ list:

·       Walking feat – Sarah Mcfarlane-Eagle – advocate mental health awareness local champion.

·       Mental health council of Australia

·       Suicide prevention Australia

·       Mental Health Association NSW

·       RUOK day

·       Children of Parents with Mental Illness

· Australia

·       Mental Health Awareness Australia

·       Single Mothers Who Have Children with Autism

·       Lifeline

·       Anxiety on line

·       Suicide call back service (The Twitter presence of this service provides a convenient access to counseling and health promotion commencing in the social media environment as well).

·       Carly Fleischmann

·       Headspace

·       E-hub self-help for mental health and well-being

·       Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW

·       Rural Mental Health Australia

And some more mental health professional pages that I ‘like’:

·       International Journal of Mental Health Nursing

·       Australian College of Mental Health Nurses

·       National Drugs Sector Information Service

·       AFFIRM Australian Foundation for Mental Health Research

·       Mental health foundation of Ghana

·       World Federation for Mental Health

There is a robust facebook mental health promotion conversation to tap into where ever you live (as long as you have internet!)

Social media is here now; it will continue to evolve – need to make good use of this iteration of social media to positively influence the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

The general nature of social media has expanded to include professional conversations and while social media has a number of limitations, it also represents extraordinary capacity to do some good, especially in regard to the development of timely clinical conversations and the development of professional networks.


By using these #mentalhealth #rural –you will find  there is a frequent stream of information – positive mental health conversations, links to information about specific issues, and some of the tweeters are mental health professionals.

Twitter is convenient because you can follow anyone you want to…. and the conversations are brief (just 140 characters) so you don’t get overwhelmed by long wordy blogs…. (like this!) Messages are straight to the point – nice and time efficient!. Tweeters tend to link to further information that is of interest – so if the tweet sparks your interest you can follow-up and go on to view any links.

Navigate Twitter by following people or organisations with a @ symbol, and by following # themes. Both ways will help you to build a community of interest about topics. I use #RuralMH #Rural #Mentalhealth #nurses #youngpeople #youth mostly in my tweets – because I Tweet mostly about those topics! I will be tweeting next week from the International National Conference for Australian College of Mental Health Nurses using #ACMHN2013 – you may want to follow on the hashtag and see what are the latest developments in mental health nursing…..!

Some Twitter mental health handles to follow:







E-self-help mental health

There have been significant developments in e-mental health, and especially with self-help e-mental health interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy, many of which have been developed in Australia. Beacon at the Australian National University (ANU) host a controlled data base which contains about 62 web-based and 11 mobile applications for mental health and physical health self-help interventions listed on an open access website which addressed mood and anxiety disorders.

Most are designed for adults and were based on cognitive behavioural therapy principles. One third of the interventions have been evaluated by at least one randomised control trial, which shows some promise for the developing body of evidence emerging around the use of e-mental health in the future, however more research needs to be done in the future to understand the effectiveness and implications for e-mental health delivery to rural young people

Here are some examples of places to start to search for quality and reliable (evidence-based)  mental health help and self-help therapy.

e-mental health will be here for the long haul…. It has the capacity to do a great deal of good. But it is not a substitute for local face to face mental health services or emergency service when they are needed. E-mental health is a companion to quality local mental health services, and in combination, there is promise for the mental health of rural communities.


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