Our Nation’s Mental Health, Men And Our Digital Voice


Upon opening the Facebook newsfeed, we are asked “What’s on your mind? Alternatively we can express an emotion or “feeling” in an instantaneous click. It is through social media, using our newfound digital voice, we are dissolving the stigma around our mental health. Mental health continues to be one of society’s most pressing issues (Utley, 2016).

For many the idea of speaking out about a topic that has been swept under the carpet for so many decades is daunting and for some, humiliating. Throughout the 19th and 20th century, those who were mentally unwell and could not “behave” or integrate well into normal society were commonly placed in mental asylums (Moran, 2009), where their behaviour could be contained, controlled and ultimately their mind contained to the four walls of a building.

Looking at our society now, we still have the same mental health issues to some extent. What is unique about the era we live in, is the role our digital presence plays in our day to day lives. It is our responsibility to harness the potential for online technologies for mental health promotion.  Through social media platforms, such as Twitter, campaigns exist, like the #IAmAReason hashtag, which took over Twitter amid the mental health outrage in April of this year. It was through this hashtag that people vented their anger and frustration at the TD’s who failed to turn up to the Dail for the Mental Health Debate that month, following cuts and failure to release the 35Million Euro to the HSE. It was through this hashtag that people showed they weren’t just another number, they were people who felt let down and vulnerable thanks to our nation’s mental health services. It was through this hashtag (merely a few characters squished together) that united so many people on a digital platform over an issue we are forced to take into our own hands. It was through this hashtag that someone in a depressive state or amid a panic attack, who has been turned away countless times by our health services, may have thought “wait, maybe I am actually a reason.”



Men, a sex which are often overlooked when it comes to mental health. 510,000 men die from suicide globally each year, that equates to one every minute (The Movember Foundation). It is apparent that men are more hesitant to ask for assistance with their mental health than women. (The Movember Foundation).

“We’re alarmed by the increasing number of men who take their own lives around the world. We are working to ensure all men and boys look after their mental health and are comfortable to reach out to others for support when they’re struggling.” — Therese Fitzpatrick, Global Mental Health Director

Recently there has been a popular campaign targeted at men’s mental health and suicide prevention. The campaign uses the #itsoktotalk, men from all over the country have been uploading selfies on social media sites to spread the awareness of suicide among young males. The movement has gone viral and encourages young men to talk to one another about their problems, and their mental health. Part of the campaign also encourages those involved to tag friends to take part, which reignites this whole idea of using our digital voice to motivate, support and share with others.

Of course this is only scratching the surface. Sufferers need more than a hashtag to get them through this week, the next few days, even just tomorrow. With poor mental health, there is no respite for many, the funding set aside for the amount of people suffering is simply inadequate. Getting people to talk is the first step, using social media to promote this idea is looking more favourable each and every day. Taking these topics into our own hands and onto these digital platforms is proving a lot more beneficial than detrimental. Today we are uniquely equipped to make a huge impact with our digital voices. If a trending social media campaign can motivate even one person to admit they’re in fact not okay, that’s taking a step in the right direction.



Moran, J. (2009), History of Madness and Mental Illness: A Short History of Care and Treatment in Canada, Available at: http://historyofmadness.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=80

Utley, T. (2016), The Rise Of Digital Technology In Mental Health, Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/toriutley/2016/05/24/the-rise-of-cognitive-technology-in-mental-health/#6205e03158fb

Walton, A. (2016), The Brave Voices Who Are Helping Dissolve The Stigma Around Mental Health, Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2016/04/27/the-brave-voices-who-are-helping-dissolve-the-stigma-around-mental-health/#46e2d5af798a



My critical response to the evolution of storytelling


The unique combination of the digital age and the art of storytelling has resulted in the evolution of storytelling. In recent years storytelling has been adapted to the digital age, like many other traditional concepts. The digital age allows for the interplay between creativity and technology. My “twessay” focused on this particular relationship between storytelling and technology. The possibilities the digital age offers to storytelling is varied, ranging from advertising to publishing. Recent technological advancements have allowed for storytelling to be utilised on digital platforms, for both commercial and personal use. Technology and the internet has profoundly affected how we consume and collect information. Even though the tools have changed, the basic structure of storytelling has not changed.

The various tweets from my classmates focused on the interactive nature of storytelling in the digital age and the accessibility of communication. The traditional ideas of storytelling still exsist but have been adapted to the current digital age. The combination of technology and storytelling has also enabled storytelling to be shared universally, to all nationalities and languages. This allows for ideas and information to be shared to a wider audience. Digital platforms in this way have enabled information to be shared universally. Arlene (@arlsmur) explored this idea in her tweet. She also noted that how we tell a story has evolved, this can be credited to the evolution of the digital age. The proposed possibilities of storytelling in the digital age were explored in the various tweets.


Storytelling is commonly used in advertising for large scale companies. The traditional structure of a story; a plot, characterisation, a narrative remains. The use of this structure to convey a story has often been used in advertising on digital platforms. Digital media such as video, has added a new dimension to the idea of storytelling. Andrew (AndyWiggins_DAH) explored the evolution of stories and how they are delivered to their audiences.


Stories, in a traditional sense were once delivered by word of mouth or by the written word. The digital age has added diversity to the concept of storytelling.

In recent years, storytelling has evolved visually. Visual aids, such as video and images has enabled storytelling to be utilised in the gaming world. Interactive documentaries have also availed of the qualities of storytelling. The increased popularity of gaming and its proposed educational benefits is an example of the diversity of storytelling. Danielle (@dansull22) noted how storytelling has evolved to be interactive.


The tweets exploring the evolution of storytelling illustrated how technology can benefit more traditional concepts, like storytelling. Storytelling has evolved and will continue to develop as the digital era evolves and develops. The “twessays” explored every aspect of storytelling. There appeared to be a huge focus on the interactive nature of storytelling in the digital age. The core elements of storytelling have not changed, the platforms they are shared on have.



-Clayton,S. (2014), #Cannes_Lions 2014: The art and science of storytelling in the digital age, url : http://blogs.microsoft.com/next/2014/06/10/cannes_lions-2014-the-art-and-science-of-storytelling-in-the-digital-age/ Accessed on the 26th of November 2015

-De Monte,M. (2012), Dawn of the ‘Story Arc’: The Return to Storytelling in the Digital Age,url : http://www.wired.com/insights/2013/12/dawn-of-the-story-arc-the-return-to-storytelling-in-the-digital-age/ Accessed on the 26th of November 2015

-(2012), Social media has evolved into the art of storytelling, and we must all become masters of it, url : https://www.simplyzesty.com/blog/article/november-2011/social-media-has-evolved-into-the-art-of-storytelling%2c-and-we-must-all-become-masters-of-it Accessed on the 26th of November 2015

Emoticons and our emotions

emojis oct

Over the years there have been many abbreviations within the English language, “for example” to “eg”,” post scriptum” to “PS” and of course you have the introduction of text talk abbreviations, don’t feel like typing see you soon,”cya” should suffice. In the digital age we live in we are constantly looking for short cuts to our exsisting short cuts. We want everything at the tip of our fingertips, so the idea of little icons to express our emotions is very appealing .The first emoticon (which represented facial expressions using various keys on a keyboard) was said to have been used in 1982 but since then advancements have been made and Emojis (a small digital icon) were introduced. Emojis are universal and can be understood by all languages. Even Hermann Melville’s classic, Moby Dick has been translated into an emoji version entitled Emoji Dick (Robb,2014).

I think I would be an occasional emoji/emoticon user, I do feel as if they have added another dimension to the written word. I mainly use them to express an emotion, happiness, excitement, anticipation, fear, everything is covered. Emojis are also integrated into the keyboards on iPhones, which is nearly suggesting all your texts or interactions should include these friendly digital icons. It is then made even easier for the user by having your recently used emojis pop up (some of mine include, the laughing crying face, the smug smirking face, the salsa dancer and the unamused face).So, my phone is telling me these are the top emotions that I have shared with people (or have sent to myself), although in person I was not nearly half as expressive. Take the crying laughing face for example, I use this around five times a day, and I am probably not “crying laughing”, at most, I might have sniggered.

It got me thinking, if over-exaggerating our emotions could affect our interactions and how we express and interpret emotion in real life, how serious should a winking face be taken ;)? Why is there three variations of the tongue face, a winking one, a closed eye one and an open eye one, should I be offended if I receive the closed eye version? I am confused, this would be a perfect opportunity to use the ‘speak-no-evil’ monkey emoji, but maybe someone else would use the ‘see-no-evil’ monkey. Do we feel, perhaps a bit disappointed talking to someone in person who is much more flamboyant and exciting using emoticons/emojis (are we setting people’s level of emotional engagement too high?). Having read an article in relation to emojis and our emotions, I found it interesting when they made a point about the gender divide in relation to emoji usage, based on the ideology that females are more emotional, they tend to use more emoticons(Robb,2014).

There is also the fear that we may not value physical emotion as much as we would have, could this hinder our ability to develop psychologically by not being able to express our emotions properly in real life. Since we are living in a constant virtual reality, it is not that absurd to think of these possibilities in relation to emoticons/emojis and their usage. Since we seem to be throwing happy, sad, angry, confused, crying, frightened icons around, there may come a time when we fail to recognise real emotion if it is not expressed digitally. Of course, these are all possibilities, I would be very interested in researching further into this idea.

Niamh x


Bartlett, Q. (N/A), Emoticons, a Return to “Hieroglyphics”?, url: http://revelfoundry.com/emoticons-a-return-to-hieroglyphics/ Accessed on the 26th of October 2015

Marsden, R. (2013), More than words: Are ’emoji’ dumbing us down or enriching our communications?, url: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/more-than-words-are-emoji-dumbing-us-down-or-enriching-our-communications-8610767.html Accessed on the 26th of October 2015

Robb, A. (2014), How Using Emoji Makes Us Less Emotional, url: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118562/emoticons-effect-way-we-communicate-linguists-study-effects Accessed on the 26th of October 2015

Seiter, C. (2015), The psychology of emojis, url: http://thenextweb.com/insider/2015/06/23/the-psychology-of-emojis/ Accessed on the 26th of October 2015

Picture: http://getemoji.com/ Accessed on the 26th of October 2015