An idea for discussion

52 mental health conversations – An online mental health peer learning project for 2014

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What is peer learning?

Peer learning is an educational process where peers interact with other peers interested in the same topic. It is when we learn with and from each other. We can do this formally, informally, while we are face to face, or online. We can do it at the same time, or we can learn from each other asynchronously by leaving messages, comments, emails or recordings back and forth between ourselves.  (Source)

What will be the purpose of 52 MH Conversations?

  • To provide a platform though which people can learn from others experiences. In particular, for those with experience of mental health problems to allow others the opportunity to benefit from their experiences.
  • To do this in the form of conversations in blog comments, which will also have the added benefit of giving us a permanent record of what was discussed without any work being involved in compiling that record.

Can people participate who haven’t experienced mental health problems?

Absolutely, yes! Although the peer learning will mainly be between people who have experienced mental health problems, anyone can join in.

Mental health is something that everyone has. It might be good,  it might be bad, or it might be anywhere in between, and it changes from time to time.

But we all have mental health, and everyone has mental health experiences, so it is definitely open to everyone!

It’s about sharing experiencing and opinions, in order to allow people to learn from them. That is something that everyone could be in a position to do!

Why conduct the conversations via blog comments?

Communication has changed. Communication is more instant.  People have become used to the briefness of twitter and facebook and are less likely to read long blog posts / articles.

And this is why we need to move and find solutions to meet what people need.

52 MH Conversations will have the benefits of the permanency of blog posts, but the content will mainly be in the blog comments, as it will be a community project, based on interaction. The purpose will be peer learning, through conversations, and 52 MH Conversations will provide the collaborative space for these conversations.

This extract from ‘What a blog post will look like in 2020′ partially explains the concept:

“The idea of the author writing “to” their audience will be outdated.  It’s going to be more of a dialogue. Mark Schaefer has often said the comment section on {grow} is better than the original posts. Well, now the comments can BE the post, as he could live-write a killer post, and YOU, the audience, could participate and share your info and expertise directly into it, in real-time.’

But there are already so many other platforms for mental health conversations?

Yes, and the intention is not to take anything away from those, but more to offer another space / platform, with a specific aim.

There are lots of wonderful mental health conversations happening on twitter in particular (e.g.tweetchats). And many of us are on twitter. Why not just stick with it?

Those who use twitter for mental health conversations (I’m one of them, and have had a lot of mental health conversations tonight alone) should keep doing so.

But 52 Mh Conversations will have two big benefits:

- Not everyone is on twitter / likes twitter / knows how to use twitter, so this will be an alternative space for them.

- Tweets are fleeting. 52 MH Conversations will provide a permanent record of the conversations, in a way that twitter cannot without some work involved. There is storify, but as far as I can see, it really isn’t a conversation format, it is more a lot of tweets that can be difficult to follow.

Why not use a forum?

A blog will be easier to reach people.

A blog will not need a user to create an account.

Easier for search engines to find the blog.

Easier for people to share on other platforms using the functionality at the bottom of the post.

The permanent record will hopefully be a long-term resource for people to learn from, so best on a blog format, than a forum.

What will the conversations be about?

The blog post itself will ask a question, which people will discuss in the comments. The question should be as straightforward as possible. It should ideally be focused on generating discussion which facilitates peer learning.

They should be as straightforward as possible, unlikely to generate controversy, and be something that most people could be in a position to relate to / be able to contribute to.

The questions should be phrased in such a way which encourages people to share learning points, rather than purely focusing on negative aspects of their experiences.

Can you give us some examples of the questions which may be asked in the blog posts?

Some examples off the top of my head:

  • Based on what you have learned through living with a mental health problem, what is the main piece of advice you would provide to others experiencing similar issues?
  • What, for you, has been the most difficult aspect of living with a mental health problem? Have you learned to manage / overcome this? If so, how?
  • What is the most helpful thing that anyone has ever done when supporting you?
  • Do you have any mottos which you live by? If so, what are they?
  • If you could go back and speak with yourself  five years ago, what advice would you give yourself?
  • What resources, either online or offline, have you found most helpful?
  • Diagnosis. What are your experiences of mental health diagnoses? If you have a diagnosis of a mental health condition, did you find it helpful / unhelpful to receive a diagnosis?
  • Do you think there have been any positive aspects for you of having a mental health condition?

Who decides on the discussions questions?

The community. There will be an place for people to submit ideas for questions. A poll will be available through which people can select which questions they would find most helpful to be discussed.

Before submitting ideas for discussion questions, community members will be given guidance on the types of questions to be asked (not in terms of content – but e.g. should be phrased in such a way which encourages people to share learning points, rather than purely focusing on negative aspects of their experiences. )

Who administrates 52 mental health conversations?

Most of the work will be done through people participating in conversations via blog comments, but some administration will be involved (promoting, site administration, moderating comments etc).

Amanda O’Connell will be the project lead, but will ask for others to assist with these admin tasks.

You mentioned moderating comments?

The focus will not be on moderating the content, but on ensuring the safety of the community. Any good online community should provide some ground rules.

On 52 Mental health conversations the ground rules will be a ‘keeping it safe and happy’, which members will be asked to adhere to. Feedback will be sought on these before the project starts.

Why ’52′ conversations? 

This will be a project purely for 2014. After 52 such questions, it may get quite repetitive, but this could be re-considered if the project proves successful.

One question posted for discussion each Sunday.

The next Sunday a new post will be added, with a new question for conversation / discussion.

The post comments feature will not be closed on old questions, but will remain open indefinitely.

Where will 52 Mental health conversations take place?

On a new site specifically for this purpose. Something like http://52mentalhealthconversations.com/  or similar, and most likely on wordpress.

And with its own twitter handle / facebook page etc to promote it – but these will be just to promote it, not for the conversations to take place there.

The idea was considered of using a pre-existing space, but we want people to notice the new project, rather than confusing it with something that was already in place.

When would it start?

First question and subsequent conversation to take place on Sunday 5th January 2014, and each Sunday thereafter.

This gives almost two months to develop and discuss the idea, set up the site, and any other promotional tools, twitter handle etc, form ‘keeping it happy and safe’ ground rules, get ideas for conversation questions etc.

Will there be an email subscription feature?

Yes. This is important, as relying on people remembering to come and read / contribute will not be very effective, so we would encourage people to sign up for an email notification each sunday when the discussion question is posted.

Any other questions?

What have I missed / not considered, please let me know.

Feedback very much welcomed and appreciated.

  • Do you think this could work? Why? Why not?
  • Do you think people are likely to participate?
  • How do we best get people to engage with it?
  • How should it be advertised / promoted?
  • Is blog comments the best way solution for the conversations, or do you see something better?
  • Do you think this is already been done elsewhere?
  • Do you think this is even needed?
  • What should it be called? I suggested 52 Mental health conversations in a ‘it does what it says on the tin’ style manner, but I’m sure there would be much better titles!

These are just some comments that it would be good to get feedback on. Feel free to comment  on any / all / none, or add your own comments or thoughts on it.

Also, ideally can you provide feedback via the comments below (you don’t need a wordpress account to do this) – this gets us having conversations in comments, and gives you / others a feel for that.

It also prevents lots of different people providing me with the same feedback off here, and me saying back the same things to them in response :)

Thank you!

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About Amanda

Mental Health blogger at beautyfrompainblog.com Mental health trainer. My lived experience gives me the drive and passion to make a difference to others. Determined to make as much good as possible come out of my own illness.
This entry was posted in mental health awareness. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to An idea for discussion

  1. andylawrence71 says:

    This is a fantastic idea and I’m fully behind what you are trying to do. Will most certainly be a regular visitor and an active participant.

  2. katyhanlon says:

    Hi Amanda, The 52MHC peer-based concept is a strong one. The plan you outline will offer the MH community a place to join together and share mutual support and resources. The moderator role is smart addition and will allow 52MHC to be a safe place for all without limiting community development. I like that you will use twitter and fb as a means to get the word out, but not as central platforms. I also think the name is nicely straightforward and would lend itself to a nice logo design. Please let me know if I can be of any help. This is great! -Katy

  3. Paul Winkler says:

    This sounds like a good idea, and rather exciting. I can’t quite picture the format and how easy/hard it will be to navigate, but I’m looking forward to trying it!

  4. Leona Dunbar says:

    Great idea, peer support, ideas sharing, talking about current trends in an environment where folk who are interested will listen. Count me in.

  5. sallyb41 says:

    Really good idea – will it be a new blog?

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Sally

      Yes, that’s definitely the intention, but currently feedback and thoughts welcome on all aspect of it.

      Current plans are covered in the following section above:

      Where will 52 Mental health conversations take place?

      On a new site specifically for this purpose. Something like http://52mentalhealthconversations.com/ or similar, and most likely on wordpress.

      And with its own twitter handle / facebook page etc to promote it – but these will be just to promote it, not for the conversations to take place there.

      The idea was considered of using a pre-existing space, but we want people to notice the new project, rather than confusing it with something that was already in place.

  6. I like it too! happy to help if I can be useful – just let me know :-)

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