Saturday, April 20, 2013

Challenges of Psychiatry Blogging: Audience

Part 1 here, about the challenges of psychiatry blogging when it comes to content. Closely related to content, of course, are the questions of who is the intended audience of a blog written by a psychiatrist, and how does a blogger reach this audience? Along those lines, I found this post by Dinah over at Shrink Rap reminiscing about their blog being almost 7 years old to be very interesting:
Seven years later, and I want to say that Shrink Rap life remains distinctly different from my real life as a clinician.  Before Shrink Rap, the concept of anti-psychiatry was a foreign one to me.  The idea that there were people out there who saw psychiatry as bad, that psychiatric medications cause more harm than good and should be made illegal for all, that psychiatry was about power, that the patient and doctor were anything but on the same side, that diagnosis -- a word -- was inherently stigmatizing or life-destroying, this all was news to me.  Maybe I was in my own little bubble.
Shrink Rap, according to its description, is "A blog by psychiatrists for psychiatrists." Yet judging by Dinah's post and what I've seen over the years, almost all of the comments are from non-psychiatrists, and some are from a vocal minority who have strong views against various aspects of (or anything to do with) psychiatry. Their own poll (n=45, so probably a biased sample) shows that only 20% of respondents identify themselves as psychiatrists, while 51% say they're "Someone who uses Mental Health Services" (I wonder if going to a spa or getting a massage are included in this category). Granted, there are around 50,000 psychiatrists in the U.S. and millions of folks who use mental health services, so psychiatrists are certainly over-represented. The more surprising thing to me is that only 8% of those polled said that they are "A random interested person."

When a mainstream publication like the New York Times publishes almost 100 articles in the past year involving the DSM, chances are that mental health issues have broad interest. For a blog to reach such a wide audience, I don't believe that there is a magic formula, but I think most important factors are having a consistent output of posts and a variety of content. Blogs often die when the neophyte blogger becomes discouraged by lack of pageviews, or if the blog is already established, when the blogger becomes too busy in other areas of life to blog regularly. Some blogs, like 1 Boring Old Man, are very opinionated and focused, and thus seem to attract people who harbor the same points of view (I count myself amongst them, but I wish I could see more comments there from folks who are pro-DSM-5 and biological psychiatry, so there would be more interesting debate).

I will aim for about a post a week, and I am hoping to write articles that would be interesting to a broad audience, but especially those in the mental health field. I hope to elicit comments from those who both agree and disagree with me, while weeding out the trolls. Of course, since this is a hobby, the most important aspect of blogging for me is just getting to write on a regular basis.