Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


David Webb on Activist Websites and Social Media

On the future of mental health

Eric Maisel
Source: Eric Maisel

The following interview is part of a “future of mental health” interview series that will be running for 100+ days. This series presents different points of view about what helps a person in distress. I’ve aimed to be ecumenical and included many points of view different from my own. I hope you enjoy it. As with every service and resource in the mental health field, please do your due diligence. If you’d like to learn more about these philosophies, services, and organizations mentioned, follow the links provided.


Interview with David Webb

EM: You run a very successful website called If you were a mental health activist wanting to create a successful website that “packed a punch” and attracted visitors, what would you recommend?

DW: By definition a mental health activist has a passionate interest in a topic or cause that they want the world to know about and the best way for them to create a website that "packs a punch" and attracts visitors is to reflect that passion throughout their site.

When you're getting started with a website, don't over think it, just tell your story by writing authentically about what you care about. Why are you a mental health activist? What issues do you feel most strongly about? Why do people need to know about these issues?

Make it as easy as possible for your visitors to have their say. Whether it's a simple Q & A section or a page tool that allows people to submit their own comments, think Web 2.0; it's not a term you hear bandied around as much these days but it's a concept that every good website should embrace, i.e. being a place where people can contribute, share, collaborate and learn.

Also, make sure that you provide at least one way that people can stay connected with you after they have left your site, e.g. by subscribing to your e-mail newsletter.

EM: You are also very successful using social media. Again, if you were a mental health activist, how do you think you might employ social media?

DW: I would employ social media as a means of driving traffic to my website. When you're trying to build an online presence it can be tempting to rely solely on social media but keep in mind that you're building on rented land and things can and do change very quickly. Remember Myspace? Organic reach (the total number of unique people who see posts through unpaid distribution) on Facebook is dramatically lower than it was a few years ago; and there's always the possibility that your social media accounts could be hacked and deleted.

Caution aside, social media still offers an unprecedented opportunity to reach a huge number of people who are interested in what you have to say. In the United States alone, there are six million – seven million monthly active Facebook users who list mental health as an interest! You can of course pay to connect with people via social media, by way of ads or boosted posts, etc., but if like me you prefer the free option, there are a number of simple things that you can do to help boost engagement.

You can:

+ Upload video content directly to Facebook.

+ Post more at weekends.

+ Ask questions

+ Post more often! Repost (each of my Facebook posts go out twice, 12 hours apart).

+ Schedule posts (set and forget).

+ Include your website URL and/or a call to action, e.g. “see the following link to learn more.”

+ Use to create great images for free.

+ Visit to find brilliant high quality images that you can use for free.

Finally, use humor and irreverence as a means of connecting with people and igniting debate. I recently posted a cartoon from the online webcomic Robot Hugs, which among other things explores depression and mental illness. This particular cartoon called "Helpful Advice" imagined a world where people responded to physical illness the same way they responded to mental illness. This one Facebook post received over 1,500 likes, was shared over 1,000 times and elicited numerous comments.

You can see the post here.

EM: On a similar note, what are your thoughts on activism and product design?

DW: Well, there's certainly never been a better time to get involved in product design given all the print-on-demand sites out there (Zazzle, Cafepress, Teespring, RedBubble etc). I think there is a natural fit (no pun intended) between activism and t-shirt designs as far as raising awareness, promoting campaigns or fund raising events are concerned.

Personally, I've always viewed product design as more of a marketing opportunity than an income generator, particularly in the case of information products. For instance, I've enrolled all my self-published books in the Amazon KDP Select program as this allows me to offer the kindle version of my books for free for up to 5 days every three months. I promote each free giveaway via my website and social media channels which in turn results in hundreds and sometimes thousands of downloads. Given that each of my books include details of how to connect with me online, each free promotion becomes a great way of getting more website visitors, social media followers and newsletter subscribers etc.

EM: What are your thoughts on the current, dominant paradigm of diagnosing and treating mental disorders” and the use of so-called psychiatric medication to treat mental disorders in children, teens and adults?

DW: It shouldn't be the dominant paradigm. That doesn't mean to say that medication should never be prescribed as a treatment option but given (as many people have pointed out in this interview series) that the assumptions upon which the "disease" model of mental health is predicated are clearly found wanting; the notion that medication is widely perceived as the default option is extremely worrying.

I recently did a Q & A with British Psychological Society President-elect Professor Peter Kinderman who advocates that a 'psychosocial model' of mental health care should be adopted in place of the current biological 'disease model' and I was particularly struck by his argument that "The guiding idea underpinning mental health services needs to change; from an assumption that our role is to treat disease to an appreciation that our role is to help and support people who are distressed as a result of their life circumstances." The more I learn about this alternative model, the more I'm convinced by it.

EM: If you had a loved one in emotional or mental distress, what would you suggest that he or she do or try?

DW: I'd start by telling them that there are lots of things that they could do themselves to try and alleviate their distress. Exercise more, eat and sleep better, listen to their favorite music, watch 'Singin’'in the Rain (seriously, watch Singin’ in the Rain!). I'd mention that Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) might be worth exploring as a way of challenging the way they think about things. Above all though, I'd encourage them to identify at least one person who they can confide in. As someone who experienced an acute emotional low following the death of my brother, I can state unequivocally that it was the social support I received, particularly from my wife, that was instrumental in allowing me to deal with and bounce back from a period of profound psychological distress.


David Webb is the owner, writer and host of four websites built around his teaching and research interests; including All-About-Psychology.Com which receives over two million visits a year.

A passionate promoter of psychology through social media, over 850,000 people like his psychology Facebook page and he is featured on the British Psychological Society list of the 100 most followed psychologists and neuroscientists on Twitter.

A best selling author, his books include 'The Psychology Student Guide', 'The Incredibly Interesting Psychology Book' and 'On This Day in Psychology: A Showcase of Great Pioneers and Defining Moments'.

You can connect with him on Linkedin here


Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is the author of 40+ books, among them The Future of Mental Health, Rethinking Depression, Mastering Creative Anxiety, Life Purpose Boot Camp and The Van Gogh Blues. Write Dr. Maisel at, visit him at, and learn more about the future of mental health movement at

To learn more about and/or to purchase The Future of Mental Health visit here

To see the complete roster of 100 interview guests, please visit here:

More from Eric R. Maisel Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Eric R. Maisel Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today