Meet Martin Baker and Fran Houston. While living on different continents, these best friends have found a way to work together to ignite conversations and help reduce the stigma around mental illness. Here, Martin explains how they’re using Skype to do it. You can also follow their journey on their website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Despite living on opposite sides of the Atlantic, I’m Fran’s main support, caregiver, and lifeline. She lives with bipolar disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, and in the four years since we’ve met, she’s gone through episodes of mania, depression and debilitating fatigue.
As you might expect, being friends with someone living with a mental illness isn’t all “sunshine and rainbows”, but from the beginning Skype has allowed us to build and maintain a strong, mutually supportive relationship. She has local friends and a great team of professionals who are there for her, but Skype allows me to be the person she’s in most direct contact with – to be there for her day or night. We use instant messaging, voice and video calls several hours a day to keep in touch.
Because we know that this sort of friendship isn’t unique to us, we’ve started writing a book based on our experiences, including many real-life conversations from our instant messaging archives as practical examples of how to support someone living with mental illness. It’s amazing how having a record of how we’ve dealt with things in the past helps us when similar situations arise again.
Needless to say, we’re both passionate about reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and Skype lets us connect easily (and economically) with like-hearted individuals and organizations all over the world. That’s really what it’s all about – connection. Not just on a virtual level, but emotional.
We’d love to know how Skype has allowed you to be there for a friend or loved one. You can share your story here.