Mental Health Camp – a Conference about Mental Health and Social Media

MentalHealthCamp is a conference about the intersection of social media and mental health.

What is social media?

Social media is the online practice of sharing personal opinions, insight and content (of text, images, and music). Examples of social media are blogs, Facebook, YouTube, flickr, and Twitter.

And mental health?

For the purposes of this conference, mental health is the wide spectrum between mental wellbeing (e.g. experiencing a minimum of stress, anxiety and interpersonal problems) and serious mental illness (e.g. heroin addiction, schizophrenia or anorexia).  We are also including issues such as ADD.

After very positive feedback to a panel discussion about social media and the stigma of mental illness at the 2009 Northern Voice blogging conference, a spontaneous decision was made by some of the attending bloggers that this topic is something that cries out for more attention.

This year’s theme is “Breaking Our Silence. Setting us Free.” We will examine how silence hurts mental health, and, even more importantly, how using our voice helps us achieve and maintain mental health. We will explore how social media can help us find this voice and share it with the world.

At Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2009 we asked questions such as

  • How can blogging help decrease the stigma of mental health?
  • How does someone with a mental illness navigate the waters of anonymity in the transparent world of social media?
  • How is the journaling that happens in blogging similar to or different from journaling for healing?
  • How can social media participants with mental health issues help each other?

This year’s Mental Health Camp will be focused on how speaking about mental illness (online and offline) may be able to help break down the stigma associated with it.

  • What happens when we take the risk to blossom, despite – or with – our emotional/cognitive/chemical idiosyncracies?
  • What is the pain of silence, and how does it impact our mental and physical health?
  • What happens in that strange moment when we decide to voice our truth and some of the people around us react with silence on their part? And what does that freedom look like on the other side of silence?
  • The first Mental Health Camp ever (in Vancouver and worldwide) was held on April 25, 2009, at Workspace, 400 – 21 Water Street, Vancouver, from 9 am to 6 pm. The second Mental Health Camp Vancouver (and third overall) will take place on July 10th, 2010 at the Aquatic Ecosystem Research Laboratory from 9 am to 6 pm. For registration you can go to the EventBrite page.

    Admission this year will be $25 per person, but we will continue our policy that no-one will be turned away for lack of funds. We are inviting anyone to attend who is interested in and concerned with mental health and/or social media.

    MentalHealthCamp Toronto just took place in Toronto, on May 28, 2010.

    We will endeavour to help all attendees keep as much anonymity and confidentiality as possible in such a venue, and are planning to have counsellors on stand-by.

    TO ATTEND Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2010, please register here (EventBrite page for the 2010 event).

44 Responses leave one →
  1. 2009 March 8

    What a terrific idea! I wish I could attend.

  2. 2009 March 8

    congratulations, you are our first commenter! can you hear the fireworks?


    actually, susan, i hope that you CAN attend. we’d like to have at least one session where people can “tweet in”.

  3. 2009 March 8

    Sounds like a great idea, hope you guys will have some way to continue the connections, has been great fun out here – and anything we can do to develop better dialogue about the significant changes in the health delivery system – all to the better!

    Best of luck with your project!

  4. 2009 March 9

    Where is the link on this site for registration and sign-up?? I’m having difficulties navigating the waters. :p

  5. 2009 March 9

    Hi Lee,

    The 2009 registration was but for the 2010 event, it will be


  6. 2009 March 9

    ya, I got it now thanks. Just suggesting some obvious link to it from here. 🙂

  7. 2009 March 9

    I’m quite looking forward to this. Do you already have all of the speakers lined up? I’ll keep checking back for new details!

  8. 2009 March 15

    I just found out about this via Twitter and am going to do my best to try to attend this conference. I’m currently at SXSW, presenting a panel called Therapy 2.0: Mental Health for Geeks and am very interested in the intersection of mental health and social media in research and practice. Hope to see you in April.

  9. 2009 March 15

    Hi Keely – yes, this is one of those cool Twitter connections. Someone posted the interview about you and I looked for you on Twitter right away – and here you are!

    It would be absolutely lovely to have you here!

  10. 2009 March 16

    What a fantastic idea! I hope you will be putting plenty of content online for those of us who are (sadly) too far away?


  11. 2009 March 16

    Hi BTC – we’ll try our best. One of the organizers here uses a neat system for liveblogging, so that will be very helpful. We also have lots of volunteers already. But your request highlighted the need to really work on putting the content online – thanks!

  12. 2009 March 18

    Yet again the globe disappoints me by remaining all globe like. Space-time, where are my wormholes when I need them huh? Promise of Einstein my tooshy…

    All of which is to say it’s totally unfair that getting out of Oz requires vastly more than a really shiny pair of heels 😉

    Sounds divinely fascinating, however.

  13. 2009 March 20

    Great idea! Looking forward to see people freed up to speak out AND be heard. Hope it catches on!

  14. 2009 April 5
    ellen j schulman permalink

    This is FABULOUS!!!! I wish it was possible it be there.
    Let’s all work to..ERASE the STIGMA….and help our community.

  15. 2009 April 5

    Is webcasting feasible?

  16. 2009 April 6

    Seems like webcasting could bring up some confidentiality and privacy issues. I’m imagining it might be okay but there should be some process of informed consent, given the sensitive nature of what folks might be sharing. Some people may not be comfortable with it.

  17. 2009 April 7

    Re: webcasting – Isabella and I are working on creating a guidelines framework for things like Twitter, live-blogging, and live-streaming. Canada has somewhat stricter privacy guidelines than other countries, and we are also very sensitive to the nature of discussions and the need to assure confidentiality and privacy.

  18. 2009 April 14

    I have been involved in online mental health support community for over ten years now, and it has been my ongoing observation that “The Profession” has very little idea about what goes on in the vast peer-generated mental health landscape as it exists on the web today.

    While professionals may be interested in developing the web in ways that enhance their own personal practices, I’ve had the feeling that many professionals, although uninformed, have a gnawing sense that others may be walking on their once-exclusive turf, and that until some unspecified time in the future, the whole peer-to-peer phenomenon in its currently unsupervised form should be viewed with suspicion if not outright dismay.

    The reality is that client groups truly are exerting agency and taking matters into their own hands. In the past, traditional therapy allowed for very little contact among client populations. Group therapy may have presented the only opportunity for client interactions, and even those situations were often restricted in theme and content and closely monitored by professionals. It has been my sense that the primary breakthrough the web has provided is an opportunity for peers to come together not only for mutual support, but to compare notes and opinions in ways and settings that were never open to them in the past.

    While the profession may see these developments as potentially undermining their previous hold on the therapeutic milieu, peer-generated mental health support on the web is widespread and unlikely to moderate any time soon. Those looking for support often spend considerably more time in such groups, and often discuss issues more openly than they currently do with their own therapists.

    The dynamics of such groups are complex, and the breadth of value that such groups provide is, despite their years of existence, still wide open to investigation.

    Brownie points to your group for daring to hold such a conference !

  19. 2009 April 14

    I agree 100% with the previous commenter. My own site was created to fill a gap in the resources available to clients and the response shows the need that was there as well as the preparedness of clients to discuss the details of their therapeutic experience with other clients. Hopefully this will only facilitate their work in therapy and bring them closer to being able to discuss issues directly with their therapist – and there is evidence in my experience that this is the case. However, there does seem to be a fear among some less technologically aware practitioners of the benefits of the internet in creating and sustaining these communities. As fear = ignorance hopefully with organisations and initiatives such as this the situation will change.

  20. 2009 April 15

    You guys this is so exciting!

    As someone who’s battled depression for many years, I’m really interested in your last question:

    “How can social media participants with mental health issues help each other?”

    My blog and twitter are my first efforts in that direction, but I think the technology is so ripe for peer discussion groups, small short-term goal setting and support, etc.

    I live in L.A., just heard about this and will start making arrangements to be there.


  21. 2009 April 16

    Wow! This is so exciting – I’m so disappointed I won’t be able to attend. Please, please, please put whatever you can on the web so we can share with our community here in Calgary.

  22. 2009 April 20

    I am so bummed I won’t be able to attend. This is a truly fascinating event. I teach online workshops on “Writing Mental Illness” often to people with mental illness and I love the focus on eradicating stigma and building community.

    This is so exciting. I will be anxious to see whatever is shared online from the camp.

  23. 2010 February 9

    Social Media/Health conference looks great. Will there be lots of online material available for those of us unable to attend?


  24. 2010 February 9

    jenni – i hope this time around – in july 2010 – we will have a well-functioning twitter portion. are you on twitter?

  25. 2010 February 10

    Yes we are @themhsorg
    many thanks Jen

  26. 2010 June 8
    Margaret deMello permalink

    Ending Stigma? Change thinking and language of mental health and illness. We may change structures and models but not our essential beliefs, and so the myths and stigma remain.

    On the other hand, as long as it is possible for any of us to become marginalized from our communities; as single mothers, as elderly, as infirm or injured, there will be fear. A certain amount of shame, external assumptions and loss of freedom are inevitable.

  27. 2010 June 18

    I wish I could attend, this sounds great. I would also be interested in reading what the speakers talk about at your conference.

  28. 2010 June 28

    This sounds like a truly groundbreaking and amazing weekend. I hope to be there myself in person to participate. I work for Gallery Gachet, an artist run centre determined to also create dialogue and break stigma around mental health issues. Every year, we celebrate Mad Pride by having a big arts festival at Gachet for the month of July. Here’s the Facebook invite, if you can pass on the details about this to everyone you know, and I will spread the word about the Camp!
    In solidarity,
    Lara Fitzgerald

  29. 2010 December 23

    Is there an upcoming conference in 2011?

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