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.

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.

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.

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.


Have you checked out my book Psych Meds Made Simple?  It’s available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.


21 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!!

    Liked by 1 person

  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.

    Liked by 1 person

  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!

    Liked by 2 people

  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.

    Liked by 2 people

  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.

    Liked by 1 person

  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. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  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.

    Liked by 1 person

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