One Psychologist’s First Year as a Blogger

This week I’m celebrating the first anniversary of my blog. If you’re not a regular follower, I’ll give you my story in 25 words or less:

Clinical psychologist and mental health advocate. Proven resources to promote mental health, wellness and recovery. Keeping it clear and practical. Hoping to make a difference.

(That was exactly 25 words, by the way.)

It’s been a wild and wonderful year. (I like using the phrase “wild and wonderful” because it’s the state slogan for West Virginia, where my wife hails from and where we first met.)

When I started out one year ago, my social media goals were fairly straightforward:

  1. Create a website.
  2. Write one new blog post each week for a year on mental health and wellness topics.
  3. Provide content that’s clear, proven, helpful, and interesting.
  4. Tweet regularly about my blog and other related mental health topics.

One year later: goals met! This is my 52nd weekly post and I’ve tweeted over 6,000 times. You can find an index of all my blog posts here, and you’ll see I’ve covered a variety of topics within the overall theme of mental health and wellness. Not too long ago, I also started a Facebook page to complement my blog and Twitter feed.

I’m not one to get hung up on numbers, but I suppose it’s worth mentioning that I currently have over 5,000 Twitter followers. (One year ago I had 24.) While 5,000 may not seem like a huge number, it’s an eye-opening comparison that I have more followers than the entire population of my hometown of Tazewell, Virginia (4,600).

Also by the numbers, my most popular blog posts have been “5 Simple Steps to Reduce Stigma About Mental Illness” and “8 Reasons Why People Don’t Get Mental Health Treatment.”

My favorite posts? Probably “7 Points of Hope to Reclaim Your Life from Mental Illness” and “How We Think About Mental Illness: Time for Plan B,” because they say a lot about my overall philosophy for how we should view mental health.

What else have I learned? I’ve seen many benefits from my year in social media which have really hit home with me. Here they are, in no particular order.

10 Lessons Learned From My First Year as a Blogger

1) It’s a small world.

It’s hard to believe I have followers from all of the 50 US states and from over 100 countries! Prior to this year, I had less than a handful of international contacts. Now, about 35% of my followers live outside the US. I’ve been fortunate to connect with several folks both at home and abroad on a more personal level and the experience has been wonderful. So when I retire and become a world traveler, I should have lots of friends to visit all over the world!

2) People are incredibly supportive.

I entered into blogging and social media with really no idea whether my message would be seen as helpful or not. It’s been so gratifying to receive many positive comments that my posts have been useful, relevant, and even inspiring, particularly from those who have been dealing with their own personal mental health issues. I’ve also had amazing support from hundreds of new connections who have become loyal supporters and promoters of my content.

3) Courage and compassion abound.

Perhaps the thing I’ve been most blown away by this past year are the countless number of people on social media who courageously bare their soul through tweets, blog posts, and articles to share their personal struggles with mental illness and other chronic health conditions. It’s been inspiring and affirming to get to know several of these terrific people by sharing comments, encouragement, or just a (digital) smile.

4) Writing requires discipline.

You might think that producing around 1000 words of new content each week would be a piece of cake. Let’s just say: no! I’ve sometimes spent several hours on one post, and struggled more than a few times to meet my self-imposed weekly publication deadline. Things got a quite a bit easier when I wrote several posts in a row to have a few in reserve, to relieve the pressure of creating new content each and every week.

5) Use social media resources.

As my daughter would say, I’ve learned a ‘crap ton’ (that means “a whole lot”) about social media this past year. All of my social media training has been self-taught. I’ve benefitted from and recommend several great blogging and social media resources, including WordPress, Twitter Analytics, LinkedIn, Facebook Pages, Buffer, Bitly, Crowdfire, Michael Hyatt, SumAll, Google Analytics, Tweepsmap, and so many more.

6) You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Related to number 5, you’re never too old to set new goals for yourself which can push you in new directions and open new doors. While I’m certainly not the youngest blogger on the block, I’ve learned I can hang with some of the most active folks in social media in terms of connecting with others and getting out an effective and helpful message.

7) Family support makes all the difference.

I already knew this, but the patience and unwavering support given to me over the past year by my wife definitely qualifies her for sainthood. Although my daughter is still a bit surprised by the fact that I have way more Twitter followers than her, she has also been so supportive, and she’s proud that I’ve been well received in the world of social media.

8) Advocacy is alive and well.

I’ve met so many incredible advocates for mental health from around the world and my Twitter list of “Mental Health Advocates” has grown to well over 400 people. I’ve developed great relationships with many of these inspiring individuals. Please take a few minutes to check out some of their work and connect with them. There are so many worthwhile people and causes out there just waiting for great supporters like you.

9) Great surprises can happen.

Some great surprises have come my way in the past year. I was very honored to be named on the recent list of “best mental health doctors and therapists to follow on Twitter” by PsychCentral. And my biggest brush with a celebrity was being tweeted by Paula Abdul, after I complimented her work to raise awareness about eating disorders. But I still haven’t heard back from Demi Lovato, who I’ve tweeted repeatedly about her terrific mental health advocacy. Oh well, maybe someday.

10) My story is still being written.

What’s next for me? I hope to stay true to my primary goal of providing clear and useful information to help people improve their mental health and overall wellness. I’m also planning to continue my “Stories of Hope” series, which features interviews with incredible people who have dealt with mental health challenges and who are now finding hope, healing, and a new sense of purpose.

I’ll close by saying: THANK YOU! I couldn’t have done it without all of you. Stay tuned and see you soon.

Here’s a question: What suggestions do you have for blog post topics for me to write about this coming year? Please leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!

  • Caroline Cassels

    Congrats Dr. S! cc

  • Stuck on Social Work

    Congrats David! have about 5 months on but you are doing a wonderful job.

  • Congratulations!!! Really happy to have found you and followed you. Thank you once again for adding me to your list of mental health advocates. I’m honored to help educate in any way I can.

  • Congratulations on an incredibly successful year, by all accounts! I love your ten lessons learned, and can relate to all of them. I connected with a wonderful psychologist through my blog and he ended up collaborating with me on my book about overcoming OCD; it was published this year by Rowman & Littlefield. That’s been really awesome, though not as cool as hearing from Paula Abdul :). Wishing you continued success and I look forward to reading more!

  • Good job and fantastic work David! Topical, well researched, written and informative!

  • Thanks Sean! I admire your work greatly too!

  • Thanks Caroline!

  • Thank you my friend!

  • Thanks so much Janet! I look forward to checking out your book!

  • Thank you Amber! You’re an awesome advocate and I’m glad we have connected.

  • RecoveryPatience

    Yay for perseverance! You could write about managed care and how mental health services are being affected. That could be an educational post to help people know what the future is for mental health potentially. I’ve been hearing a lot about managed care as a peer in New York, and I think we are even behind in peer services being a part of this.

  • That’s a great idea! Thanks!

  • I love this post! So full of good energy. And this was my first year of blogging so I can relate to a lot of what you said. You have a great writing style as well….it is fun. Best of luck to you in the next year. (And you are a good dad for your shameless plug). 🙂

  • Thank you for the positive feedback. I’ve enjoyed your blog as well!

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