Whether you are a person with experience of a mental health issue and/or families and carers of someone with a mental health issue, you may at some point want to share your experiences/recovery journey with others.
“Stories have the power to change the decisions people make… inspire people to learn”
Letting people know of your experiences can be rewarding, as well as contribute to destigmatise societal stigma in mental health.
However, there are major factors you should consider before sharing your story:
Consider why you want to share your personal story, for example, is it to inform and educate others? Is it to share what has been helpful to you?
If you have been asked to share your personal story consider how it will be used and for what purpose. You always have a choice and can say no. Project Semicolon does not use Community Member stories without the consent of the author.
You will need to consider the exposure that the story will bring to you. Publishing the story online may cause you to be opened to judgements and feel overwhelmed. Once your story is out in the public domain then there is no going back, however, Project Semicolon offers you complete control of deleting and editing your story at any time. You may also consider posting your story anonymously.
Have you shared your personal stories with others – it is better to share first with people you trust before going public.
Share your story from your own view point. You are the expert of your own unique experience. Be yourself.
Will your story include other people? Do you need to seek their permission prior to telling your story? Will publishing the story affect them? Be aware of how your story might affect those involved.
It is always best to think about your boundaries prior to telling your story. There may be aspects of your story that you wish to keep private. You do not have to tell all of your story and you don’t have to answer questions you do not want to answer.
Do you want to use your full name, first name only or a make-up name ?
Do you want to remain anonymous? Do you want to use an alias?
Telling your story may be an emotional experience as you revisit past experiences. It is important to ensure you have a support system in place to deal with any issues which may arise during and after the storytelling process.
Keep in mind who you are sharing the story with. Be mindful that sharing your story with the media may sometimes cause your story to be sensationalized, askew and/or your personal life to be intruded.
You do not know who will be your audience and how they are feeling so care is needed when discussing suicide (see guidelines re talking about suicide).
In order to counter stigma and discrimination toward people who experience mental health issues it is important not to perpetuate myths that people may have.
Stories of both challenge and positivity, and examples of your achievements and aspirations that go beyond your experience of mental illness are helpful.
Consider what do you want to tell in your story. Things you may consider:
- Successful instances in challenging times
- The types of support system which has helped you
- Your unique view and experiences
- Any challenges which you and/or your loved ones may have faced and how they were overcome
- Avoid language of shame or guilt / language which may perpetuate stigma and stereotypes towards mental health
- Your first experience of distress
- Your recovery journey to wellbeing
- What is your motivation for sharing your story?
- Where are you now