What makes a mental health influencer?

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I’m not a big social media person, so I’m still trying to figure out what exactly an influencer is.  How does one get to be an influencer?  Why does anyone come to care what a given influencer thinks or likes?  How much just comes down to dollars and cents?  There’s a lot that I just don’t get, and I rambled a bit about the online world in a recent post.

For the sake of this post, I want to focus on mental health influencers.  I don’t know what a mental health influencer is any more than an influencer in general, but at least I can take a bit more of a guess.  In the realm of mental health blogging or other online presence, there does at least seem to be a fairly consistent purpose: to raise awareness and challenge stigma.  I think that’s a key difference between a mental health influencer and someone who has millions of people following their dumbass videos of them doing dumbass things on Youtube.

Google search results

When I Google “mental health influencer”, the first result is an article on The Mighty called 5 Instagram influencers who made a difference in my mental health battle.  I’ve never heard of any of those 5 people; does that say more about my awareness or their influence?  Is there a particular platform that it’s “more” important to be on to be a mental health influencer?

The second hit on Google is an article by Jordan Brown about the Top ten mental health influencers on Twitter.  I spend some time on Twitter although I’m not particularly active, and I’m familiar with several of the people he mentions.  There certainly seem to be some people who are very active on Twitter, posting many times a day.  Is being active what makes an influencer?  How about interactive?  I notice that some people have similar numbers of users they’re following and vice versa, whereas others have a huge number of followers and a relatively small number of people they’re following.  Personally I would prefer the former, but is the latter the mark of an influencer?

The majority of the top Google results I looked through were focused on Instagram, with a few other social media platforms tossed in as well.  None were about blogging platforms like WordPress.  Sometimes I’ll take a look at blog sites belonging to influencers, and it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of interactive back-and-forth compared to what I see on a lot of the mental health blogs I read on WordPress regularly.

WordPress community

What I like about the WordPress mental health community is that there is a lot of interaction.  People who are on this platform seem committed to being here, and see bloggers responding to comments even when they’ve got huge follower numbers.  I think an amazing example of this is Caralyn at Beauty Beyond Bones.  She’s got over 40,000 followers but she still responds to all her comments and regularly reads other blogs.  To me that’s a lot more meaningful than someone who’s got 100K followers on Twitter but doesn’t have the time to interact with their community.

Follower  numbers and reach

Reach is always going to be part of being an influencer.  However, I believe that connection is what really allows someone to have an influence over other people.  My personal preference is to devote a lot more time and attention to blogging than social media, although I recognize that for a lot of people it’s the reverse.  Twitter may be an easier way to reach more people, but I’m more impacted by reading blog posts than quick Twitter posts and so that’s the kind of content I’d rather give my readers as well.

I’m always a bit dubious about follower numbers alone, in part because of what I’ve noticed as my own follower numbers have grown.  Of the new followers that I get in a month, I would say that less than 10% ever actually look at my blog, and fewer than that end up actually engaging.  So in terms of actual reach/influence, I could end up being on par with someone who’s got far fewer followers than I have.

 

What probably matters the most is how we ourselves are influenced by our engagement in the blogging community or whatever platform it may be that we choose to focus on.  Many of us come on here with a goal to spread our message to others, but from what I’ve heard other bloggers mention and what I’ve experienced directly, it’s the back and forth in messaging that’s the most meaningful.

So, what makes a mental health influencer?  I still don’t really know, but my vote is for anyone who’s interactive in the online mental health community.  And I’m looking at all of you fabulous people out there.

 

Visit the Mental Health @ Home Store to find my books Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis and Psych Meds Made Simple, a mini-ebook collection focused on therapy, and plenty of free downloadable resources.

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75 thoughts on “What makes a mental health influencer?

  1. Meg says:

    That’s a very, very interesting question. I asked myself who’s influenced me, and I came up with the following answers:

    * Dr. Phil McGraw — I used to watch his show, and he made a lot of sense.
    * Judge Judith Scheindlin — she could always tell when someone was mentally ill and/or immature, and she’d tell them, “You know what? You need to go back home and live with your parents for a few more years,” or that sort of thing.
    * Carolyn Hax — She radically altered my worldview back when I originally read her columns in 2004. Her advice gave me a common sense that I’d never had.

    On a smaller scale, like pertaining to us bloggers, I don’t know how influential we are (in a global sense), but we’re definitely a good community!!

  2. Karen says:

    I’m not on instagram and don’t engage in twitter that much. I think if someone wants huge numbers then they have to ‘work’ social media in the right way but like you say followers doesn’t mean readers.

  3. BeckiesMentalMess.wordpress.com says:

    Excellent post, Ashley! Everything you have written about makes perfectly good sense to me.
    I still have a FB account open, and I don’t even know why. I’ve actually seen one of “My so-called friends” who attends the same mental health facility who in which claimed she was a mental health professional. In what capacity? Who the heck knows. But, after I read that, I was sickened.
    I appreciate your approach of being an influencer. Not only to you engage, but you truly listen.
    By the way, I’ve been reading your book off/on throughout the week, and I have to hand it to you… I consider you not only an author, but you’ve given so much perspective on the medications that I’ve been taking all along. I feel so proud to know you!

  4. moncoindeslivres says:

    I really enjoyed your article. Personally, I don’t really follow the example of known “influencers” simply because I believe that we can all influence others in a way or another. Many people like to follow known people because they have the impression that if those people can do certain things than they can as well, not sure if it makes sense, it does in my head. 😋 A mental health influencer…for me is someone that struggled or struggles with mental health and talks openly about it with the purpose of helping others.

  5. Johnzelle says:

    Great post. I love the engagement part of blogging. Sure, my more recent MH blogging is to build my influence for my business, but I still engage with my WordPress people. I love Carolyn over at beauty beyond bones because she always engages. I think a real influencer is someone who engages. It’s a lot harder and more superficial on twitter from my experience, which is one of the reasons I left.

  6. Iggy says:

    I would like to think of myself as a MII. Going by the definition that I openly talk about my journey with my mental illnesses and have a relationship with my “active” followers. I have over 450 followers but only a handful actually have a dialog with me. But I have a type of influence. I help others, I spread information, I fight stigma. And I think we are all influencers in our own way. Just as we could say we are all advocates in our own way. Someone that brings awareness to Mental Illness. Sure, it would be great if I were popular, but I am cared about by my regulars, which is good enough for me. 🙂

  7. bestillhawk says:

    Great post! I think what truly matters is the intention behind the “influencer”. I’m a blogger, who mostly advocates for Mental Health, as I myself struggle with anxiety daily. I started an Instagram and have a Facebook but twitter just isn’t my speed. My ONLY purpose in creating these accounts where in the hope that I can reach as many people as I can, in order to spread hope and a sense of community. At the end of the day, I’m not worried about how many followers I have in compared to how many I’ve followed. I want people to know they aren’t alone. The great thing about other social accounts versus a blog post is that while they are short bursts of encouragement, they can be consistent. Blogs will obviously create and further a more authentic and deep conversation, but other outlets can be the start of one.

  8. Meredith Fletcher says:

    Love this post! Influencers are such a major part of social media across all “genres” (for want of a better word) of posts, that it’s making me start to realise that really they do more harm than good. Of course there are those influencers who don’t use there following to their own advantage. But those who portray the perfect lifestyle, influence in a negative way. I started my blog this week as a way to cope with my own mental health problems and one of my goals at the moment is to have one day a week where I don’t go anywhere near my social media (which frankly sounds pathetic written down, but is the reality that me and most of my generation would struggle with). I hope that in the future we won’t see an influencer as someone with the ability to change our lives to be more like theirs, but just another person living their life while we live ours.

    • Big Happy Life says:

      I think your goal of going a day without social media is a great one. It doesn’t sound pathetic at all – I tried to do one day without using my phone and I failed. It’s a very tough thing to do and there seems to be a lot of evidence mounting to suggest it’s a major conributing factor to our challenges with mental health. I wish you well in your efforts. I think it’ll be a great habit and will give you lots of useful information about how you feel and think differently on the days with/without social media interaction.

  9. the Mindberg says:

    Hi there,

    Really great post- very interesting question. I guess in a way, the goal is to have everyone as a ‘mental health influencer’, i.e. having their experience heard and part of the mental health discussion.
    My sense from my limited time blogging/twittering on MH is that it is indeed that connection with others that is key. Big, shiny, loud things/accounts/blogs(?) can be attractive (sometimes), but it’s that feeling of someone really “getting” you/ your experience that feels fundamental to it all. To impart the message that “you’re not alone in this”

    Thanks again for the post.
    Peace and love.
    Spence.

  10. Duke1959 says:

    In my over 5 decades of dealing with mental health issues I have heard it all and all these so called influencers are dead wrong! The most important number is 1. What do I mean by that? It simply means that you can have all the influencers you want but when it comes to helping one person each day one day at a time. Sometimes it’s one second. The mental health establishment likes things just they way they are and simple won’t be honest about it/

  11. James Sweeney says:

    Influencers can come in many different shapes and sizes. Most start off small and gradually grow in size and influence. I’m trying to grow my blog page now which talks about Stuttering, Stress and Mental Health. It’s taking a while to grow but I am growing

  12. sophienaylor1 says:

    I definitely agree with this. I’d much rather have a smaller following that I’m close to and have a connection with than a large following I don’t interact with. Yes, number’s matter.. but it’s not all about the numbers. xx

  13. BlurryThought says:

    Thank you for sharing this! It’s actually made me feel better about starting my own mental health blog (blurrythought.com) and sharing my struggles. Even though I’m very new on the scene – a few days at most – I definitely think that engaging with your follower base and your fellow bloggers is one of the most important aspects of blogging, because then there’s a connection that is established. Unfortunately social media makes it all about the numbers, and not really about the content. Thank you again – it’s nice to know that we don’t have to adhere to a criteria to be classified as a ‘mental health blogger’.

  14. Fightingthegoodfight says:

    I love this. I haven’t been able to get anyone to read my post and I honestly am not sure what I am doing wrong. However I decided to read more of the post on WordPress than the links on Twitter and insta. I love your article. It’s engaging and interesting and makes one think. All I want to do is spread the word about stigma associated with mental illness and yes I am not rich or famous but it’s a battle I’ve faced for years and I’ve seen so many people who hide away in sham. Including myself. Thank you for your post

  15. Big Happy Life says:

    Great post! You really got me thinking about what a mental health influencer is – and the intentions behind aiming to become one. I think there are levels of influence. Most of us, even the ones with few followers have likely had an influence – even if only on our own mental health. Others have turned it into a profession and can be called “influencer” as a job title. I guess, as long as the marks we leave make a positive difference, we’ve been influencers, even if not the job-title kind.

  16. Clive says:

    I’ve only just come across this post Ashley, I must of mist it, lol. As you know I’m fairly new to blogging. I opened up a Twitter account a few years ago but never use it. Since being on WordPress and interacting with other like minded bloggers like yourself, I would much prefer having just a handful in my community that actually interacted with one another, than having thousands that didn’t even bother liking a post, let alone reading it!

  17. Faye bowers says:

    With mental health I think it doesnt matter about being an influencer although the more people share their story the better and the more people it reaches the better

  18. Anthony Garner says:

    ” I’m still trying to figure out what exactly an influencer is”. It is inevitably a person with a big mouth, often not overly bright or qualified, who has got something to sell and wants to thrust it down your throat.

  19. Elly says:

    I deleted my personal Facebook 7 years ago, and it was the best decision I could have made. Given that I’m in my 20s, people still seem confused when I tell them I don’t have one, but it was the right thing for me. 💕

    • ashleyleia says:

      It’s funny how it’s become a basic expectation for human interaction, but it seems like a lot of people who stop using it are happy with the decision.

  20. JoAnn says:

    Lol, when the whole “influencer” thing took off I always thought it sounded kinda dumb. Anyone can influence anyone else if they really want to. Doesn’t that make us all influencers? 🤔

  21. missmentalhealth says:

    I 100% agree with you I’d rather have a small engaged audience talking about something meaningful than thousands of people just knowing what I had for dinner. Let us know if you find anymore mental health ‘influencers’ I’m always looking for more to read. I feel like ‘influencers’ on WordPress are much more genuine and sincere about their message than Instagram models who mention it every now and then, but that’s just me!

  22. Crystal Grasso (Ward) says:

    I personally believe a mental health influencer is someone who makes it their mission to spread light on the subject of mental health while being active within the mental health community. Our words touch many people, and if we get just one person to come to a realization, help them understand, cope, and in any way help them, we influenced them in some way. Honestly, anyone can be an influencer, for the good or bad. This world is amused by chaos, it can become very difficult to try and spread light on things like mental health. Social media is both helpful and a bothersome, helpful by getting others to read posts, however, there are so many fake articles out there now it makes it hard for the honest writers to get their words out there and read. I’m new to blogging and I too don’t really understand the term influencer entirely, though I do use social media to try to promote some of my articles. WordPress is by far my favorite way to connect to like-minded people. Facebook and Twitter seem to gravitate towards drama because it’s amusing to people. I truly enjoyed reading this post, it definitely got my mind going.

  23. Sorena Sawyer says:

    I enjoyed the way you go through this topic of mental health influencers. It’s kind of a strange thing when I really think about it. But I do find it to be more impactful when we’re genuine with our interactions with each other. I feel like most influencers push something because they’re paid for it, so what you mention in the end of this, to me, is far more worthy. Even if it’s a handful of people you reach.

  24. mentalwealth2019 says:

    Great points. I am a mental health/wealth blogger, in fact I am a vlogger and only recently became a blogger today on wordpress. I am super super dubious about these mental health influencers who appear to be more interested in their number/followers than engagement. I am all for engagement. I tried to engage with some of the well known influencers out there. Sorry let me rephrase I did engage and got absolutely nothing back. Well that’s a lie I did get something back a link to their merchandise and other bits and bobs they sell, but not one single word that demonstrated that i was being contacted by an actual human being who cared about anything I wrote.

  25. currentlyclueless says:

    Such an interesting read, I think mental health advocates are very much separate to your typical influencer. We use media in different ways in order to engage audiences properly about the issues we’re passionate about x

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