#bePNDaware: Looking Back at Postnatal Depression Awareness Week through a Social Media Lens

Postnatal Depression Awareness Week 2012 in Australia ran from Sunday 18th November to Saturday 24th November. I’m not entirely sure of the history of Postnatal Depression (PND) Awareness Week; my understanding is that it was initiated by beyondblue in the early 2000s, but am quite possibly completely wrong about that. If you know the history please let us all know via the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Reprising an idea I’ve used previously, this post will review PND Awareness Week through a social media lens. Why? Well, until June 2013 I’m in a role funded by the National Perinatal Depression Initiative (NPDI). One of the goals of the NPDI is to raise community awareness about depression and anxiety in the perinatal period. Promoting community awareness is something that I endeavour to do every week, but in PND Awareness Week we trot out a few extra posters and brochures in antenatal clinics and community health waiting rooms, and try out other ways to engage members of the media/community in the conversation. Social media lends itself very well to raising community awareness too, so that’s where I threw a fair bit of effort this year.

Looking back at PND Awareness Week 2011 (13th-19th November) on my now-mothballed @PiMHnurse Twitter account, I see that I used a #PND hashtag, and interacted with only two other Twitter users on the subject. In 2011 I sent twenty-five PND-specific tweets in PND Awareness Week, 18 of them starting with “For Postnatal Depression Awareness Week let’s focus on the positives…” In short, PND Awareness Week 2011 was pretty lonely on Twitter.

By contrast, Twitter was a much more lively, engaging place to be during Postnatal Depression Awareness Week 2012… just have a look at all the participants:

All #bePNDaware Participants 8th November 2012-25th November 2012, courtesy of www.symplur.com

All #bePNDaware Participants 8th November 2012-25th November 2012, courtesy of http://www.symplur.com

PANDA’s Social Media Strategy

For Postnatal Depression Awareness Week 2012 PANDA (Post and Antenatal Depression Awareness Association) released suggestions on how to get involved using social media via a page titled Join the Conversation #bePNDaware. PANDA encouraged use of Facebook, Blogs, Instagram and Twitter as avenues for people to get involved: the primary target group for this is pregnant women and new mums, especially those who have experienced or are experiencing anxiety and/or depression.

Facebook content is difficult to collate, so let’s skip past it here. BTW: if somebody knows an easy way, please let me know.

Fifty (50) blogs were submitted here – there are some very articulate, generous and gutsy stories of the lived experience of perinatal mental health problems on that page. Recommended reading for expecting couples, new parents and health professionals.

Instagram had over 500 photos tagged using the #bePNDaware hashtag. With Instagram installed you’ll be able to view the photos on your smartphone, or alternatively you can browse them online here.

For those interested, there’s an abbreviated compilation of #bePNDaware content from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (very limited) available here via Storify,

twitter.com/meta4RNTwitter is Not a Toy

Twitter is a great tool for sharing information, which makes it a very good fit for awareness raising campaigns such as Postnatal Depression Awareness Week. PANDA had the wisdom to publicise the #bePNDaware Twitter hashtag a few weeks before Postnatal Depression Awareness Week, which gave me an opportunity to register it as a healthcare social media hashtag with Symplur. As discussed on a previous post Symplur offer an excellent way to track healthcare hashtags; have a look at their analytics here.

So, let’s summarise some of that data. From midnight beginning Thursday 8th November 2012 to midnight ending Sunday 25th November 2012 (Cairns time) there were:

  • 250 Twitter participants using the #bePNDaware hashtag
  • 928 tweets using the #bePNDaware hashtag
  • amongst these tweets, @PANDA_NATIONAL was mentioned more than any other individual or organisation
  • amongst these tweets @beyondblueorg was equal 4th number of mentions with Mamamia
  • @Mamamia, with its very large Twitter following, had the greatest amount of “Tweet Reach” of all those who used the #bePNDaware hashtag . In fact, Mamamia accounted for nearly half of the #bePNDaware impressions as calculated by Symplur (explanatory note here).
  • Overall, the potential Tweet Reach/Impressions topped one and a half million (no – not a typo: one and a half million!). It is an impressive number, but as touched-on in a previous post we should be a little cautious in our interpretation of this.

As a Mental Health Nurse, I’m very pleased that three of the ten most prolific Twitter accounts using #bePNDaware over the period were from my profession: @ACMHN, @nursewhitebeard and @meta4RN (my account). Also in the top ten of most prolific Tweeters were the Australian Multiple Birth Association (@AMBAconvention), PANDA and the social media agency account @BrandMeetsBlog and two of the agency’s members. Two women who shared their lived experience of postnatal depression made up the remaining spots in the top ten. The complete lists are here.

Extracting the #bePNDaware data from www.symplur.com day by day (and adjusting for time zone differences), we can see that Wednesday of Postnatal Depression Awareness Week was by far the busiest in terms of both traffic (312 Tweets) and participation on Twitter (120 participants). I assume that this is because Wednesday coincided with two events: [1] the planned “it’s not always black and white” Instagram event; and [2], this was the time when @Mamamia became involved in using the #bePNDaware hashtag. This needs to be understood in context: at time of writing the two most prolific accounts using the #bePNDaware hashtag were @PANDA_NATIONAL with 260 Twitter followers and @meta4RN with 234 followers. @Mamamia has over 65,000 followers – that’s significant social media clout in the right demographic.

Curious as to what was said on Twitter during the week? Browse through the transcript here: www.symplur.com

So what?

Let’s start with an assumption:

Raising community awareness regarding perinatal mental health = reduced fear/stigma = reduced barriers to support = improved uptake of information and services = reduced impact of anxiety/depression for pregnant women, new mums and their significant others.

I guess that’s the whole idea behind the NPDI citing improved community awareness as one of their key performance indicators. Social media has become another tool (not the only tool) for health promotion. Although I would caution against taking the one and half million impressions too literally, there is no doubt perinatal mental health became part of the thoughts and conversations for many hundreds, probably many, many thousands of people using social media during the week.

What does it cost?

Time. Using HootSuite, I scheduled most of my #bePNDaware Tweets for the week last Saturday morning while watching Rage and drinking coffee (who said blokes can’t multitask?). That allowed me to maintain a presence in the Twitter stream while I went about my paid work. Before and after work and during breaks I could check-in on the hashtag and see what else was going on, then interact and respond as time allowed.

What lessons have we learnt?

PANDA’s multi-channel strategy was certainly instrumental in the success of Postnatal Depression Awareness Week on social media. Pre-announcing the hashtags primed a core group of social media enthusiasts to get the conversation started, to get #bePNDaware off the ground. It was a very sophisticated idea to not just organise a place for relevent blogs to be compiled, but also to provide resources and tips to assist bloggers frame their information in a helpful manner. PANDA and the people supporting their social media strategy deserve to be congratulated. Apart from keeping an eye out for changes in social media fashions (eg: farewell MySpace, hello Pinterest), I don’t think PANDA will need to change their strategy much.

PANDA took the leadership role in this year’s social media campaign; I hope they do so again in 2013.

Next year, it would be great to see the other big-hitters in online info/support/funding re perinatal mental health get more involved in using the same hashtag: @HealthAgeingAU, the state and territory health departments, @beyondblueorg, @beyondbabyblues@blackdoginst, @headspace_aus could each contribute to a #bePNDaware hashtag blitzkrieg. Health professionals and the organisations that unite them could also plan to join in and amplify the social media buzz – I’m proud that the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses @ACMHN is so active in this space. I’m also pleased that NGOs, clinicians, private enterprise, interest groups and those who have “been there, done that” with perinatal depression/anxiety were all able to share their insights into the same subject. Exposure to a range of perspectives is the antidote to tunnel vision.

In 2013, let’s go out of our way to include the non-health sector people in the conversation too. The extra “Tweet Reach” that one social media enterprise – @Mamamia – bought along this year was fantastic. It would be great to have them, and other organisations that interact with the target demographic, onboard in time for the launch of PND Awareness Week 2013.

Now that the #bePNDaware hashtag has been established and has some recognition, let’s try to use it for all tweets that relate to the subject of perinatal mental health: we can use the hashtag all the time, not just for one week a year. The data/analytics/transcripts on www.symplur.com are available to us all.

Never Tweeted before?

If not, a lot of this might be a bit baffling. Like most things, Twitter is odd until you’ve spent a little bit of time with it. When it clicks-in with you you’ll love it.

I’ve covered getting started on Twitter in a previous post (scroll down to about 3/4 mark).

One last thing.

A 12 month old Tweet; the question still remains.

The language around postnatal depression week gets clumsy, because we’re trying to include anxiety and the antenatal period as well, and we don’t want to leave men out of the equation. Should we bite the bullet in 2013 and call it Perinatal Depression Awareness Week? Why not? It would be in keeping with the terminology used in the National Perinatal Depression Initiative. #bePNDaware

As always, your thoughts/comments are welcomed.

Paul McNamara, 25th November 2012

Short URL meta4RN.com/bePNDaware

12 thoughts on “#bePNDaware: Looking Back at Postnatal Depression Awareness Week through a Social Media Lens

  1. jane woolmer

    As always, what an advocate you are for Perinatal Depression and infants we represent. It is fabtastic to be able to review who and how PND has been used and seen. Yes, I agree “Perinatal Depression” should be used, which is why this term was advocated for by SA professionals when the NPDI was created. Paul you work so hard at keeping us all conected and it makes me proud to call myself a Mental Health Nurse.
    Let’s hope with the Right Hon. Gentlemen Mark Butler MP will put some funding behind the next phase of the NPDI


  2. Sam, PANDA Database & Website Manager

    Thank you Paul for all the support through out PND Awareness Week. Our new strategy was a small leap of faith for our organisation and it is rewarding to see just how well it worked. It is also great to see people really embrace social media as a way to promote awareness. It is OK to talk about perinatal depression and anxiety. Let us hope that this is just the beginning of the conversation.


  3. Teacup Ballet

    What a great analysis, we were very proud at Brand Meets Blog to be involved in getting the conversation started and look forward to continued work with PANDA and other healthcare providers in the future!!!


    1. meta4rn Post author


      It was a great result.

      Was just scanning the transcript again: you BrandMeetsBlog Tweeps were really good at reving-up the buzz & establishing the hashtag before PND Awareness Week, then kept the momentum going, especially while it was getting started… like Kelpies nipping at the heels of the herd [meant in a good way… tried for a herding pandas metaphor, but couldn’t get it to work].

      Congrats to the BMB team.


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