The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Instagram started a public awareness campaign about mental health. People can use #RealConvo to talk on Instagram and to find resources. Picture: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
When it comes to mental health, it can be hard to be real. Stigma surrounds mood disorders, therapy and drugs. Talking to someone else about a challenge can be exhausting and scary. And all too often, people keep their struggles with depression, bipolar disorder, suicidal feelings and other issues to themselves.

An initiative of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Instagram aims to change that with a public awareness campaign using social media to spark genuine conversations about mental health.

The concept is pretty simple: People use #RealConvo to discuss mental health on Instagram. By sharing stories, people might be able to empower themselves, find resources and realize they're not alone.

Browsing the hashtag reveals graphics, photos and personal stories aimed to inspire, reduce stigma, reframe how people think of mental health, and help people get help if they need it. Candid personal stories give difficult issues - such as anxiety, self-criticism, grief and post-traumatic stress disorder - faces and names.

A hashtag cannot solve people's mental-health crises, but the campaign makes clever use of a ubiquitous social media platform. It's refreshing and thought-provoking to see the stories behind the seemingly perfect faces of social media personalities, such as actress Sasha Pieterse, ballet dancer Sydney Magruder Washington and others recruited for the initiative.

Suffering from a mental illness, or know someone who is? Contact a counsellor at Sadag on 0800 567 567, 0800 212 223 or the 24hr Cipla Mental Health Helpline 0800 456 789 or visit