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In praise of help in unexpected places

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Mental health, Viewpoint

The way we search for and receive information is changing all the time. So too is the way we seek and receive help. As professionals, service users and communicators within the health and care sector, we are increasingly aware of the changing needs and expectations of the patient population.

As social media and related digital tools continue to evolve, the means and methods of communication between individuals and organisations are likewise adapting to the modern complexities – and benefits - of two-way information exchange. So too is the realisation that sometimes we have to go to where the people are, not wait passively for them to come to us.

den of geekThere is no doubt some parts of the population are harder to reach than others and some subjects harder to broach with them – mental health issues being a prime example. This is why I commend you to the excellent authors at cult TV, film, gaming and comic book news site Den of Geek. Over the past few months they have posted a series of compassionate, empathic and thoughtful pieces ranging from coping with depression, money worries and stress, to suicidal thoughts, loneliness and loss.

So why would a ‘special interest’ site such as this devote precious bandwidth to issues which, at first glance, seem decidedly off topic? Aren’t its readers more interested in Game of Thrones than getting therapy?

Evergreen views on mindfulness. Former X factor winner Will Young talks to Channel 4 about techniques he's used to overcome anxiety and low self esteem
Evergreen views on mindfulness: Former X factor winner Will Young talks to Channel 4 News about techniques he's used in the past to overcome anxiety and low self esteem

I hope I’m not being presumptuous or reductive to suggest the excellent contributors to the site know their demographic includes those who sometimes feel isolated and/or uncomfortable discussing deeply personal fears and concerns. This is not a negative or malign observation. Indeed, the term ‘geek’, once used as a term of abuse for those perceived to be socially awkward or possessed of arcane and often academic interests, is slowly being reclaimed as a more positive expression of individuality. Geeks can be fragile, sensitive and troubled, but also creative, intelligent and caring. I'm not necessarily saying I possess any of these qualities, but as a self-confessed geek myself, who spends far too much time worrying if the dreadful 1983 Doctor Who meets Eastenders special for Children in Need should be considered canon*, I know I have issues!

I first noticed the site’s commitment to its readership’s pastoral care around the time of Robin Williams’ tragic death. Whilst the rest of the world’s media were busy fetishizing another celebrity suicide and worrying how Williams’ passing might affect development of the Mrs Doubtfire sequel, Den of Geek’s authors were taking a more empathic approach, reaching out to those who were feeling as lost and hopeless as Williams did in his last few hours. The results of this enlightened editorial line have been some of the most humble and heartfelt articles I have ever read.

Take a look at the latest in the ‘Geeks vs. loneliness’ series and tell me you aren’t impressed by the humanity of the exercise and the subsequent outpouring of sharing and caring from site visitors.

The ‘Geek vs.’ series has frequently name checked helpful organisations, some of whom, like MIND, are sector partners with the Department of Health. This can only have helped raise awareness of the charity and of mental health issues in general. As we consider new ways to share positive messages of health and wellbeing, we would do well to spend a little more time considering who and where our audiences are and what they want to know, not just what we want to tell them.

*It shouldn’t. It mustn’t. It’s awful. Take a look.

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