Running your first digital peer support campaign as a mental health professional?
Yes, I'm with you.
Fusing profession, passion and business? Be ready to learn!
Here's some business oriented thoughts based on my experience. You are going to need to become jack of a few extra trades!
- Mental health savvy (your training is perfect)
- Website widget wrangler
- SEO student
- Vlogger blogger #er
- PR pirouetter
- Project, funding & money wizard manager
- Passion ➡️ pragmatism router!
Setting up? It took weeks to get the www.in2gr8mentalhealth.com website designed and content ready for launch (don't forget how to get it rendering out well enough on mobile), a year to get traction in the relevant scene (professional lived experience in mental health), and another year for messaging (anti-stigma) to embed, so the campaign and provision was understood as a go-to ally and symbol of some power.
Working volunatarily and off your passion like me? Good! But know this will take you even further into hour-devotion outside your normal routine, be aware of having time out from the business-love magnet that it can become. These things build to an inspiring and compelling gravitational pull on your time, so, find what makes you tick outside of work. Also, be prepared to not be able to develop everything you want to yet due to funding, but don't be disconsolate either, your 2020 vision will apear if you keep your head down and stay with the primary task of making the basics good. People will grow to know and support you over time. Also, a PayPal donation button or crowdfunding platform helps.
I have a background in PR, years ago before I trained as a clinical psychologist, this has been invaluable in understanding the importance of getting your message out there and the effectiveness of simply sustaining it (simple is as simple does when you're limited on funds, and social media is free and not to be underestimated); get your key messages and logo clear and repeat. Working social media is just that, it's work, it takes time across bazillion platforms and is an important part of the job (those in generation a-letter-at-the-end-of-the-alphabet are pointing/laughing at 70's me that this isn't obviously obvious - thats fine, I take my pre-internet childhood years on the chin. Gaming for us was using a joystick very fast. If you don't know what a joystick is, I urge caution in googling it without also putting 'Daly Thomspson Decathlon' in the mix...although I hope that's ok too).
The most important thing when you have hit your heart's desire in what you want to do, is to find your allies. Find those who will cheerlead you from the sidelines and commisorate with you when you've had an SEO fail that neither of you really understand.
Central and of greatest importance is those you are offering the peer support to. Regardless of the fancy digital surroundings (although my home grown efforts in web design are rather more comparable to a slightly weedy, but blooming garden tended with love) what matters is your connection and engagement, your compassion and warrior building, your leadership on behalf of voices that are more nervous and need a helping start. Be engaged with what resonates for you, if you have similar motivations and experiences it really helps.
That's the passion-fueller right there, don't be afraid to choose a cause that is close to your heart and moves you. What your peers want is to feel joined, less alone, a part of something, a sense of belonging. You're building a peer support forum, let it be with peers in some aspect of your life. Lead as you feel and mean to go on. Walk the talk. Your credibility is in your authenticity and it will give you staying power (including during the minutiae of irritating SEO failures and so forth). My attachment theory head could write an essay on this, but I'll spare you. Simply put, all of us need to feel safe in order to grow and flourish, when you provide feelings of safety through a compassionate meeting of minds, because you understand each other, you can walk a million miles together in exploration no matter how hard the terrain.
Next is how you link out and build bridges to the pillars of the scene you want to influence. It could be about relationship building in the context of things that can feel difficult to talk about ( as in destigmatising mental health in the mental health professions), especially if you're in activist stance. But know this, wider change is much more likely to happen when you can connect with all stakeholders in the system around your peers, from the top to the bottom of any heirarchies and right around the middle. Your most important key stakeholders are actually those who are in that scene and don't get it. So, allies first, then 'grade' how you bridge out by the extent to which stakeholders are open to your concept, then work on projects alongside them. The groundswell that you'll start creating from your first authentic steps with allies, will help you by the time you meet your version of Darth Vader. And meet him you must.
*Picks up phone to check out
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