Teenage agony uncle seeks mental health selfies

Twitter counsellor calls on young people to send in selfies in order to combat the stigma of mental illness.
 
  • Mental health selfie - Anorexia
    Stephanie Lowe
    Last updated: 15 April 2014, 13:23 BST

    A teenage online agony uncle is asking teenagers to send in mental health selfies in order to combat the stigma attached to conditions like bipolar disorder, eating disorders and depression.

    Sam Carvalho, who runs free advice website Stand up and stay strong, is calling for young people to send in pictures of themselves holding up pieces of paper inscribed with the mental health conditions that have affected them or someone close to them.

    The pictures show young men and women opening up about living with a range of conditions such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and phobias.

    Carvalho, 19, set up his website in September 2012. He was suffering from depression and bulimia and wanted to offer online help and support to other teenagers living with mental illness.

    To begin with, the Cambridge teenager received one or two tweets a week but he now gets an average of 50 emails a week from people as far afield as Australia, the US, Spain and Italy, and has more than 70,000 Twitter followers.

    Mental health selfie - SAD

    Although all the messages go straight to Carvalho’s mailbox and none are posted online, he wants to encourage people to be more open about their problems, both to help themselves and to educate the general public about how widespread mental health issues are.

    "I surprised myself when I set the website up,” he said. "I had suffered myself and I didn't think people should feel ashamed to talk about their issues.

    "I'm aware that many people feel uncomfortable when talking about their problems and many don't even talk about it at all.

    "I want to educate the general populace to just how many different mental illnesses there are and how common they are.

    "Most people won’t recognise a vast amount of illnesses that will be appearing in the video.

    "People have asked me what I will do when the website gets too big. I've said maybe I will have to think about taking it up a level professionally and getting some help with it."

    He has earned around £1,000 through advertising on his website and has donated all his money to mental health charities such as Mind.

    Carvalho won the Ferrier Pearce Young Person of the Year for his efforts.

    Any pictures which are sent in as part of Sam's Big Mental Health Project will be made into a video and released on social media via his website.

    Photo credit: SWNS

    Stephanie Lowe
    Last updated: 15 April 2014, 13:23 BST

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