When it comes to mental health, it can be hard to be real. Stigma surrounds mood disorders, therapy and drugs. Talking to someone else about a challenge can be exhausting and scary. And all too often, people keep their struggles with depression, bipolar disorder, suicidal feelings and other issues to themselves.
That has devastating results: The majority of adults with mental illness in the United States do not receive treatment, and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States.
An initiative of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Instagram aims to change that with a public awareness campaign using social media to spark genuine conversations about mental health.
The concept is pretty simple: People use #RealConvo to discuss mental health on Instagram. By sharing stories, people might be able to empower themselves, find resources and realize they're not alone.
Browsing the hashtag reveals graphics, photos and personal stories aimed to inspire, reduce stigma, reframe how people think of mental health, and help people get help if they need it. Candid personal stories give difficult issues - such as anxiety, self-criticism, grief and post-traumatic stress disorder - faces and names.
A hashtag cannot solve people's mental-health crises, but the campaign makes clever use of a ubiquitous social media platform. It's refreshing and thought-provoking to see the stories behind the seemingly perfect faces of social media personalities, such as actress Sasha Pieterse, ballet dancer Sydney Magruder Washington and others recruited for the initiative.
#RealConvo and some social media groups, such as AFSP (@AFSPNational on Instagram), provide ways for people who are struggling - or just eager to share - to connect and find mental- health resources.
If you are in a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
This article was written by Erin Blakemore, a freelance reporter and a frequent contributor to The Washington Post.