If social media was a roller coaster, it would be Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi: at 240km per hour, the fastest in the world. One month lauded as helping to topple dictators across North Africa, next month being held responsible for riots in English Cities. From spreading Wikileaks, to footballers’ indiscretions… it’s not surprising that we are dizzy and confused in our feelings about twitter, facebook, youtube and the like. But can social media tools support the development of health and wellbeing? And can they help disadvantaged, marginalised and misunderstood groups enhance their voice and their participation?
The answer is that previously obscured voices are finding new ways to reach out and engage, all around the globe. One of the most eye-catching examples is the Amazonian Surui tribe. Contact with the outside world brought fatal diseases and conflict with loggers. However, Chief Almir decided his tribe’s survival depended on outreach. A partnership with Google Earth has allowed villagers equipped with GPS-enabled phones to map and upload proof of suspicious logging activity, and to share more of their way of life. Another initiative, Underheard in New York, provided pre-paid mobile phones to homeless people to allow them to share their experiences via Twitter. One of the participants, Daniel Morales found his long lost daughter as a result of his tweets. Rio is home to a range of fascinating social media initiatives. These include a Wiki-Reporters scheme helping to electronically map community resources in the favleas and Catalytic Communities, training community members in social media and digital advocacy.
With growing signs that social media can be a force for empowerment, we are keen to grasp these opportunities in Greater Glasgow and Clyde. One such initiative is called Mind Waves – seeking to promote wellbeing through creation of positive news about mental health. Recruitment and training of a group of Community Reporters will be at its heart, with recruitment now underway.
The need for new communication approaches on mental health is driven by the persistent problems of stigma, discrimination, misunderstanding and social exclusion that still loom large in the lives of many people who experience mental health problems. Check here for a paper from MIND exploring stigma and see also Scotland’s See Me campaign. It is also clear that more awareness raising is needed on how to promote mental health and support recovery. While it has often been a part of the problem, the media has a crucial role to play in this challenge.
With a great deal of innovative mental health activity underway locally, often struggling to reach a wider audience, Mind Waves will look to create and share news, in partnership with traditional media. We will also intend to make full use of social media approaches to share positive mental health news. Backed by a steering group and advisory network and with the growing support of service user and other community groups, we are optimistic of finding exciting new ways to communicate. And if you have skills, ideas or connections that may help in this endeavour, please get in touch.
As part of Social Media Week’s Glasgow programme, we are hosting an event on wellbeing and social media, taking place at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library, 2-4pm on Wednesday 21st September, and would welcome anyone with an interest in exploring the potential of social media to promote wellbeing. The event will appeal to community activists, mental health service users, carers and workers, media and IT professionals, academics, public health workers and others. With informal discussion throughout, we have inputs from a fascinating range of speakers, including the Scottish Health Council, Sunny Govan Radio, twintangibles.
Finally the event will act as the official launch of the Mind Waves initiative. Join us on the 21st September as we begin our very own roller coaster ride into the world of social media and beyond.
Event booking via: http://socialmediaweek.org/event/?event_id=89
Contact Mind Waves via Outside the Box Development Services, 0141-419 0451, firstname.lastname@example.org, with project details on http://otbds.org/index.php/project/view_details/104/
Trevor Lakey is Health Improvement and Inequalities Manager at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and tweets in a personal capacity on @Synedrum