Mental Health Camp UK

The moment I spotted MentalHealthCamp Toronto I wanted to help make it happen here. Years ago I was a volunteer MIND mental health advocate in the old Hackney Psychiatric Hospital (a former workhouse) which was a schooling in one side of mental health services. Now that I'm an accidental digital innovator I can see the huge potential in a mashup of mental health and digital, which I can’t really put better than the MentalHealthCamp Toronto mission statement :

“We live in a society with access to the newest technologies, open access to information and the possibility to connect through social media and online communities. Our goal for MentalHealthCamp is to ignite conversations around how can we use these technologies to promote better mental health and help improve the lives of people with mental health problems.
Mental health concerns everyone. So if you’re a mental health professional, someone with lived experience of mental health problems, a family member or friend of a person with mental health problems, or have a passion or an interest in the topic, then MentalHealthCamp is for you! MHCTO also welcomes technophiles, change architects and all sorts of social media types.”

In the tradition of our times, MentalHealthCamp UK started with a hashtag (#mhcuk), exchanged in tweets with the organizers of the Toronto camp, and is now working its way into reality.  I hope that #mhcuk will be about positive mental health as much as it’s about mental health problems, which it surely will be as one of the other organizers is Andy Gibson of Mindapples. I also hope that it’ll get gritty and apply digital innovation to some of the more intractable issues around mental health, whether that’s the limitations of statutory care or the stigma of being labelled as ‘mad’. For an idea of topics covered in Toronoto check out their Take Action Videos.

And for me #mhcuk is just a start – an idea generator and constituency builder for the idea of a mental health Social Innovation Camp. There's already been a #sicamp pilot for a specific sector -  the team ran the Jailbrake weekend to find and support great ideas that could break the cycle of youth offending using simple web and mobile tools (see here for the film of the weekend).

There are already pioneering projects exploring the potential of digital for mental health, like Buddy, the social media radio from Sidekick Studios which they're developing with South London and Maudsley Trust. Some studies show that online social support is an effective means of mediating stress and Social Innovation Camp Central & Eastern Europe generated the Betterfly project for psychology first aid. On the other hand, this Psychology of Twitter article asks whether it's supporting self-actualisation or leading to increased narcissism.

Holding a mental health sicamp and extending some prototypes in to really useful working services also fits with my new role at Media for Development and my aspirations for the ways digital innovation at Media for Development can use the untapped potential of media to empower marginalised communities.

But first, #mhcuk. The silos of the mental health scene can only benefit from the peer to peer conversations that’ll  take place at Mental Health Camp UK, and the follow-up could inject a post-digital kind of co-production into the mental health scene. As the folk of MentalHealthCamp Toronto said

“The age of digitization and technology enabled living is here and has catalyzed a new paradigm of participation. Please bring your ideas, questions and open minds as we work on solutions that are possible today and that we are dreaming about for tomorrow.”

At this stage we’re looking for potential venues, potential sponsors, and (of course!) passionate participants. If you are any of the above then please leave a comment, head over to our wiki or join the google group.

photo credit: Lada Brunova