Building a Supportive Community on Social Media Helps Me Heal by Jazmin Alba My name is Jazmin Alba, although you might know me as the woman behind the @advocating.mentalhealth account on Instagram. Every day, I help over 261,000 followers navigate their struggles with mental illness. I share self-care tips, inspirational quotes and reminders that everyone’s experience is unique and valid. This is a conversation that’s deeply personal to me because I, too, have had my struggles with mental illness. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. At first, this experience was debilitating and confusing. When I was in the throes of mental illness, I gained bullies, weight, mania and anxiety. I had a difficult time. But after seeking out the treatment I needed, including therapy and medication, things got better. I have learned to cope when I feel my symptoms flaring up. I’ve learned to accept that the journey is not always linear. I have taken on the lifelong task of healing. I choose to care for myself and commit to my treatment. I choose grace for myself in the moments when I feel like I have fallen short. And I choose to share my story with others. I am not afraid of my mental illness, and I don’t want anyone else to be either. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. This kind of change requires a conscious, constant effort to shift my mindset — because, as I have learned over the years, mindset is everything. Now, when I face a challenging setback, I can remind myself that we all encounter adversity, heartbreak and pain in this life, but there is always something better on the other side. Perhaps the most important lesson I want to share with my social media followers — and the reason I share my own story — is that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Pain does not exist to scare you; it exists to prepare you and develop you. With every challenge comes an opportunity for hope, healing, strength and growth. I even got a tattoo that reads “No rain, no flowers,” — because without struggle, we don’t grow, learn or change. People often ask me how they can follow in my footsteps and become a mental health advocate. My answer to that question is to focus on changing the conversation, one day at a time, or even one post at a time. Never underestimate the power of being vulnerable and honest — whether that is on social media, with friends, with family, with colleagues or even with strangers. Ultimately, I am grateful for the chance I have been given to share my story and reach a large group of people who need community, compassion and support. I hope that in some small way, I have changed the mental health conversation and inspired others to do so as well.