Thinking a bit about the 'X is missing, have you seen X? Please RT' stuff. I know it's done with love and compassion, we're trying to help...
But for someone with mental health issues, it could be more than they can handle. The internet knows who they are and that they're 'mental'.
In my darkest days, this would have made me worse. I'm not saying the RTs are a bad thing - they can be used to tell people they're loved >
And cares about. But to know that thousands of people know you are in distress? not always helpful. Not a dig, BTW, just a thought.
I tweeted this last night, and I’m a bit paranoid about it now. It was because, more and more often, I’m seeing tweets and retweets about people going missing. Usually with a photo, and their real name because, DUH, that’s how we recognise people. But increasingly, there are links to people’s twitter and facebook accounts, details of where they live and work, the fact that they have mental health issues, or are considered vulnerable. And I find that concerning.
I went missing a few times when I was at my lowest. And trust me, I know the absolute fucking agony and torture I put my family through when they didn’t know where I was, what I was doing, fearing the absolute worst (which they were right to do). When they would have done anything to have me home safely. And each time I was brought home, I felt worse than I had before I vanished. Because I still felt terrible, still distressed, still vulnerable, but added to that swirling horror was a raging fire of shame for having worried them so much. I couldn’t meet their eyes, couldn’t talk to them, just wanted to hide away from them. I already felt unworthy of their concern, how dare I make them suffer?
When I see tweets about someone who’s gone missing, like most people, I feel sympathy and compassion. For the person who is missing, for their friends and family feeling the unquantifiable pain of not knowing. And when I see that someone has been found safe and well, then there is relief and hope that they will recover. What makes me uneasy is that they will almost certainly discover that their face, their name, their personal details have been shared many, many times across social media by complete strangers with the very best of intentions. The intention of reaching out to the missing, telling them they are worthy, they are important, they matter, that total strangers they will never meet care enough to try and tell them to come home. It’s a very kind and empathetic thing to do.
But. Imagine that you are in very great distress. So great that you do not want to exist any longer. That the only thing you can do is to try and let the world swallow you up in a crowd. You don’t want to cause your loved ones further distress, you just want to retreat from life. But you’re found, brought home and now the world (as it seems to you) knows this. For some people, this might be a comfort, a reassurance that they are deserving of love and care. But for me, it would have made me so much worse. Already filled with self-loathing and disgust, I would have hated myself more for causing so many people to worry, for complete strangers to take time to find me.
And a further concern is that for many people with mental health issues, social media can be vital to maintaining contact with people. When I had my ATOS assessment on Wednesday, the amount of support I had on twitter was overwhelming and humbling. But crucially, I was the one who chose to disclose that information about myself, it wasn’t tweeted by someone else. I’m happy to talk about it, because I’m no longer ill. But if I was, and then found that thousands upon thousands of people knew about my state of mind that I hadn’t chosen to tell them… I could never come back to twitter again. And I would lose contact with a lot of people who have a very positive impact on my life.
I’m not criticising people who tweet or post about missing people, please don’t misunderstand me. I guess I’m just trying to say have a little care in what and how you retweet or share things. If retweets get someone found, and saved from danger, then of course it is a good thing. I don’t question the motives of anyone who does it, it’s reassuring to know that I’m connected to people who care about people, even those whom they will never meet, or talk to. But after the missing person is found, they’re going to have to put their life back together, and it’s a painful and hard thing to do. I don’t want a kind gesture on twitter make it harder for them.