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Patient to Professional: My Use of Social Media

Blog, My Story

Since becoming an occupational therapy student I have found that professional use of social media can be a great source of information and experience. Reflecting on the warnings given to us in a lecture about social media use and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists Social Media Guidelines, I felt it would be a good idea to make some kind of disclaimer about how I intend to use the online space.

During my first year at university I began to feel like I had two lives- ‘OT life’ and ‘Art Life’. In my art life I create work about my experiences with disability and mental illness and hopefully make people feel less alone. My art life has been in place for many years. However in my OT life during my first year I aimed to be the polished professional, a concept not cohesive with my art life in the slightest. The polished professional is healthy, well, and on most topics very neutral. So I, a disabled woman actively campaigning and lobbying for policy change, felt like I may have made an error in my online presence. I ran through mentally if there was a way of finding a new pen name for my art life to siphon it away from the occupational therapy world, but six years down the line I think that ship I feel has long sailed. I thought about how I could ‘scrub the decks’, deleting more political or confronting content left right and centre. But trying to separate my two professions felt like trying to unravel matted wool, because in some sense they feed into each other really well- my experiences as a patient will no doubt will make me a better professional. But in having shared and continuing to share things about my health (mental and physical) online I have no doubt some people will think of me as unprofessional.

My interpretation is that having one self, with occupations that are deeply important to that identity, combined and owning our lived experience is central to the ethos of occupational therapy. Following this, my art life should be part of my being. On this site I have anecdotes dating back to 2014 from when I was a CAMHS inpatient, experiences dealing with mental health services, and living with disability and mental illness. I’ve been told over the years that these blogs have been useful for many people. I’d never shared anything that I wouldn’t want the public to know, I’m not ashamed in any way of these experiences and really don’t mind who knows these things about me. I rank it in the same class as people knowing my birthday. Due to developing a significantly better writing style over the years and the fact I had no idea I’d be a trainee healthcare professional when I wrote these blogs, I am reviewing them and editing where relevant. Many of these posts will return back to the site and I hope they will go on to help more people. I might even write more looking back on those days. I feel especially with the strength of hindsight these blogs demonstrate how things do change and things do get better eventually.

As a disabled woman it can be hard to hold my tongue at times when politics seems to do nothing than beat people like me down. The activist in me finds it incredibly hard to remain neutral as guidelines suggest. At the end of the day I will always stand up for the rights of disabled and vulnerable people, no matter who it is I am having to stand up against. I will celebrate successes and contest injustice, no matter what the political party is. In my mind, what kind of professional would I be if I didn’t?

So here’s a promise.

  • I will never participate in (or tolerate) hate speech or discrimination towards any minority group.
  • I will always stand up and fight for the rights of vulnerable people.
  • I will, to the best of my ability, share the most accurate and current information possible.
  • When posting about my own mental health I will never publish anything that will make people concerned for my immediate safety.
  • I will never identify service users online or break any confidentiality agreements relating to them online. I will also only identify colleagues with their specific permission to do so.
  • If I make a mistake I will apologise wholeheartedly and do my best to put it right.

I realise this may seem a very odd post, but I feel if I have this written out I am making clear my expectations of myself and what others can expect of me. If any of this is contrary to guidance or unwise I would appreciate input on this from colleagues.

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