Having a mental health disorder or being supportive of someone with one doesn’t have to be as difficult as it may first seem and in many cases the disorders are manageable, treatable and diagnosable too, meaning that people who live with them can get the help that they need – but what if they don’t know how to address it or if they simply don’t realise that something’s up until it starts to affect their lives in a big way? For that, Philadelphia launched the first annual #IWillListen Day on June 3rd to combat mental stigma through social media.
A collaboration between the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City (NAMI NYC-Metro), the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS) and the Scattergood Foundation, #IWillListen Day aims to promote positive conversation about mental health, allowing people to use the hashtag not to judge or or make jokes but simply just to listen.
According to Colleen Kane, who is NAMI NYC-Metro’s development and communications director, “#IWillListen is based on the simple principle that by listening, we can begin to break down the barriers for people to access care, treatment and recovery. Through listening, you are creating a safe space in your community in which friends and family actually feel comfortable to approach you about an issue they may have.”
But the organisers of #IWillListen Day are looking to take it beyond that, aiming higher, they say. Wendy Brennan, executive director of NAMI NYC-Metro explains that they would like the project to bring awareness to Philadelphia’s free mental healthcare, allowing them to seek the help that they need, while she also adds that, “The power of the #IWillListen campaign goes beyond the one in four who are directly impacted, and reaches out to the four in four. It is everybody’s responsibility to really change the culture”
Furthermore, the #IWillListen Day also saw a health fair taking place in the city’s Love Park, showing just how effective it is to promote a cause on the ground too and that it can be just as important – particularly with groundbreaking events like this – that you promote where people need you most and not just where you think they might hear you.
Following #IWillListen Day 2014, the team would like to see this launched in plenty of other cities and are reportedly talking to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to further the movement and further break down the problematic stigma around mental health. So with those great ambitions it’s clear that not only can social media be used for good, but it’s also a great example of what can be achieved when sometimes instead of Instagramming pictures of our lunch, or complaining about our work day, we just stop for a second and listen.
Now what we want to know is… Will we see #IWillListenDay in London anytime soon? Perhaps we need to start speaking to some of ‘the powers that be’ and get the ball rolling!
Quotes via Mashable.