How one Twitter user made depression very real for thousands

The mental health community is one of the most vibrant on Twitter. Hashtags such as #HowIFightDepression are helping to break taboos around mental health, making people realise they're not alone and providing support. Here's how one Tweet affected so many - and how brands can offer their support...

How one Twitter user made depression very real for thousands

People share on Twitter – the good, the bad and the painful. And that’s exactly what happened last summer – people took to sharing their experiences on mental health and depression with  #HowIFightDepression. 

Thousands of people used the hashtag to share the methods, exercises and ways of coping with the tough times in their mental health. 

Many opened up in the spirit of showing others they are not alone and sharing their coping strategies. But it was one Tweet in particular that touched many. But it was one Tweet in particular, from a father called "Chner" (@Tadasco42) that really captured people's attention. He shared his coping mechanism…

The words he shared in this Tweet caught the attention of thousands engaging with the #HowIFightDepression hashtag. And his Tweet triggered many to respond and share how his story had moved them. 

@RangaRob2 replied: "That actually made me smile. You are a gem." While another user @GizmoWalpole shared a similar coping strategy: "Walking is good. I walk. I don't want to, but after I feel better. I talk to the trees and stuff and cry a bit but it's generally better afterwards."

This is just a small example of how the health community works on Twitter. It is a community that Twitter focusses on as a part of a groundbreaking research project (2) into better understanding Twitter’s UK audience.

Mental health community takes to Twitter
The study (1) using a combination of cutting-edge data science analysis and traditional market research, has identified 75 sub-communities within the health community. Twitter examined people within these communities to understand their motivations and learn how brands can best engage. 

Health, and specifically mental health, has recently been very prominent in public debate on Twitter. That’s because Twitter is the place where people start conversations that defy convention so it’s unsurprising that the scale of conversation about health on Twitter is extensive. In the same way that health issues vary greatly, so do the sub-communities that make it up, with people clustering around specific physical- and mental-health conditions.

Three in particular stood out, due to their size and interconnectivity: mental health, carers and those with learning disabilities. In the mental health community on Twitter,  hashtags like #HowIFightDepression thrive, and people rally to share experiences, learn about mental health, find advice and support others in need. 

In the carer community, these people come together to exchange ideas, knowledge, and experiences. 

The third largest sub-community within health on Twitter is based around people who have or are connected to people with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Many different pockets congregate to share experience, discuss and support each on specific topics such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and autism.

Three ways brands can connect with health communities on Twitter 

Health Twitter is one of the communities most open to brand involvement. Here are some of the ways brands can help further their cause:

1. Amplify awareness
When it comes to mental health in particular, brands can raise awareness with a simple Tweet or Retweet. This simple moment raises the profile of a vital issue. 

2. Challenge perceptions
Brands have the power to challenge how people with disabilities (physical and mental) are represented in the media. The conversational power of Twitter makes it the place to spark debate and challenge public perceptions for the better.

3. Fund and support 
Health Twitter wants brands to put their money where their mouths are, and back mental health charities out of their profits, not just the employee contribution. But be mindful that people are wary of brands that superficially engage with mental health to improve their own public perception. Brands should commit fully, with genuine intent and be able to demonstrate integrity in their own working practices.

Sources | 1.Jaywing, Join The Dots, and Twitter, 'Flocks — Uncovering communities on Twitter', June 2019, UK. 2. To conduct the research, Twitter partnered with data-science agency Jaywing (‎@jaywingsays) and insight agency Join the Dots (‎@WeJoinTheDots) to crunch and analyse the data based on follower graphs and Twitter bios. It combined this work with online diaries from each community, in-depth interviews, cultural analysis, and a quantitative survey (total n=1,500) to ensure the most robust results.

Uncover more insights about Twitter's most vibrant communities.