New Mind Waves podcast episode on mental health and social media! Part 1: Luke, Amy and Hannah from Glasgow Disability Alliance

Great news! There’s a new episode of the Mind Waves podcast out. Our fabulous intern Rosie chats to Luke, Hannah and Amy of the Glasgow Disability Alliance, Dr Heather Cleland Woods from Glasgow University and Jennie Walker from the Mental Health Foundation.

The episode focuses on mental health and social media and over the next few weeks we’ll be taking a look at these three interviews. I’d recommend you listen to the episode before you read these – it’s so interesting and under 40 minutes, the perfect thing to listen to when you’re on a walk, doing some yoga or cosying up with a cup of tea. Listen to the podcast here.

This week we’re going to focus on the first interview Rosie conducted on the podcast with Luke, Amy and Hannah. Glasgow Disability Alliance is an organisation run by disabled people and for disabled people. With over 5,000 members, they support disabled people all over Glasgow. During the pandemic they have implemented various schemes to support disabled people in the area such as well-being checks, help to access technology and online classes.

During the interview, Rosie asks Luke and Amy about their personal experiences of using social media. Luke describes social media as being a lifeline when exploring his LGBTQ+ identity before he became disabled, and then as his health declined the internet became a place where he could connect with others with similar conditions.

Amy began using social media after she started using her iPad, which has a built in screen-reader. Due to her vision impairment, lots of areas of the internet had been inaccessible to her before she had this software. Amy also highlights that some areas of social media are still inaccessible to her, such as images without alt-text (descriptions of images that are highlighted by screen-readers). She says “I’ve realised that there are things that I do miss out on, sometimes I’ve asked people to describe their pictures to me, if I know them well enough.”

The discussion then moves on to the positives and negatives of social media for mental health. Luke discusses his positive experience being the admin of a wheelchair group on Facebook. He also discusses the negative impact that Instagram has had on his mental health and his decision to distance himself from the forum: “A few years ago I had to take a step back from it, it was having a really negative impact on my mental health… I would overthink every little symptom.”

Amy says that social media, for her, is mostly a positive experience, especially during the height of the pandemic where online communication with friends and family was so important, but that it has its downsides too. “I do miss out on some things (socially) and just find about it through social media, but I guess everyone can relate to that.”

Rosie asks Hannah about GDA’s actions to reduce digital exclusion and make the online world more accessible to everyone. Hannah reveals the shocking statistic that disabled people are four times as likely to experience digital exclusion than non-disabled people, maybe due to lack of equipment or a lack of confidence accessing the internet.  GDA’s response to this has been to distribute hundreds of laptops, speakers, keyboards and other equipment among digitally isolated people. They also provide classes on how to use the internet that are focused on the specific needs of the individual. Hannah says: “What we understand is that digital exclusion affects disabled people disproportionately.”

GDA were supporting an asylum seeker who was unaware of the pandemic due to his digital exclusion. Without a TV or access to the internet, they were unable to access important news and became isolated in a new home far away from friends and family. Hannah says that for a lot of people, online access is a lifeline.

If you haven’t listened to the podcast yet, hopefully this blog post has shared enough interesting tidbits to tempt you over to Anchor to listen. This is just a snapshot of one of the interviews Rosie conducted in this episode and next week we’ll be summarising their chat about social media and sleep with Dr Heather Cleland Woods from Glasgow University. Click here to take a look at Glasgow Disability Alliance’s website and keep up with what they’re doing. See you next week!



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