IMPACT 0077: BUILDING A DIGITAL SPACE FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Ron Yap is a mental health and wellness coach who shares his experiences and tips on how to steward mental on his Instagram page, @mentalhealthceo, which has over 24,000 followers.
As someone who experiences anxiety and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), he believes that it is absolutely important for people to realise what they are facing can be understood. He aims to build a community and support system where people can come together and help one another.
I awake from one of the five alarm clocks I’ve set up around my bedroom. I’ve been trying to reset my sleep schedule for the past two days.
My day starts with a challenge I’ve set for myself called “60HARD”, which entails exercising twice a day for 60 days straight. I usually go for a morning run around my neighbourhood for 20 minutes.
After taking a shower, I head over to my laptop and start on some work. Content creation on mental wellness for the Instagram page I run, replying to comments, scheduling counselling sessions with some clients… The usual stuff. I don’t usually have breakfast, but a cup of coffee is enough to tide me through to lunch.
One of the joys of having an advocacy page is receiving positive feedback on your posts because people feel heard. Today some of the comments and direct messages mentioned things like ‘You’re helping more people than you know brother’ and ‘Thank you for your kindness, and providing this encouraging support’.
However, I do receive negative comments surprisingly often, and the hateful ones often feel like a punch in the gut. Yet, having done this for long enough has made me grow some thick skin.
When you know your heart is true, you can weather the trolls and haters, and they’re often a sign that you’re going the right way anyway.
I usually grab lunch from the coffee shop downstairs. I then hop onto YouTube for a bit of escapism while I eat, but I have an app that blocks the site after an hour to stop me from losing track of time. Cruel, but necessary.
I return to work on my page, usually to prepare content for posting. I derive my content ideas from a variety of different sources, including feedback from my followers, the news or articles that are trending, or just ideas from my content bank that I feel would relate to my followers and capture their sentiment.
In my opinion, the idea of relatability is the most important thing for a piece of content, especially for mental health, and sometimes even more so than providing a direct value in the form of counselling advice or practical therapeutic frameworks.
I also take a look at what has worked historically from my own posts, and do content research on other pages to understand what people relate to based on what they’re saving, sharing, liking and commenting on.
Once I’ve got an idea, I create content by batches for a few days ahead. First comes the design using Photoshop to create the graphics and having templates definitely does help with the design process! Next I will write the caption and schedule it in my Instagram scheduling app, Later. Task complete!
During this stretch of time in the afternoon, I might also work on some side projects that I have going on. For example, I wrote a book about anxiety and my experience with it some time back, and right now I’m working on one for depression.
Of course, whatever I write about is supported by research, which means that I also have to take time to read mental health books about CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy), ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), and a whole host of other therapeutic modalities and psychological concepts.
Around the middle of the afternoon, I usually get tired of working and head out for a short walk again. For some reason, I love walking in crowds and among people, which is surprising for someone with a history of social anxiety. I think it helps me to release some of my own burdens and expectations. I’m not as alone as I feel in any of the problems I face – everyone is experiencing their own too.
Part 2 of “60HARD” looms ominously as evening falls, but I change into my exercise clothes anyway. I know that exercise doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s foolish to think it’ll help to cure everyone of their mental health issues just like that, but it does help me in a great way. Normally I’d go to a gym, but since there’s COVID-19 restrictions these days, I usually do some circuit exercises or go for another run instead.
I have dinner at a relative’s place that is located in the apartment block opposite mine. I’ve been going there for dinner ever since I was a kid. My aunties, uncles and cousins are all there, which is nice, and there’s a wide selection of food every day. My family may not be the most expressive with our affection for each other, but just gathering together almost every day has made such a positive impact on my life.
As I’m still a university student, I sometimes have online project meetings with my group mates. Sometimes, we meet virtually just to hang out and play games together. It’s always a good time with them, and nothing beats the feeling of having people who understand you and appreciate your sense of humour without judging you. My friends played a big part in helping me manage my social anxiety in my first two years of college.
This is also around the time I post my Instagram content, and since my audience is mostly US-based, this is when they’re the most active online due to the time zone difference. After posting my content, I would usually take time to answer the comments and DMs I’ve received throughout the day. I’ve made some pretty amazing friends on Instagram, another perk of being a content creator!
Again, I use the same blocking app to block out my distraction sites at midnight – every night! Surprisingly, I’ve been falling asleep faster than I used to. As someone who’s had a problematic sleep schedule for most of my life, I feel glad that I’m getting my habits back on track again.