When Veronica O’Mara started blogging about her experiences with mental health a year ago, she never imagined that her words would reach thousands, let alone have the impact that they do today.
At only twenty-one years old, O’Mara is already taking a stance on mental health within the Sydney community and has created a platform for her peers and other mental health advocates to speak out about their experiences. Despite acting as the President of the Didi foundation at the University of New South Wales, contributing to mental health organisations such as Batyr and Sane Australia and studying full-time at UNSW, O’Mara’s biggest achievement to date is something she simply started as a hobby.
“It was a big secret for a long time. My friends and people I knew only found out about it when my mum somehow… got a notification, your facebook friend Veronica is on Instagram and such and such and I was like oh my gosh everyone knows now,” says O’Mara.
Story of the mind was initially a blog for O’Mara to share her own thoughts on mental health and wellbeing, however it soon took off to be one of the biggest social media blogs on mental health in Sydney. Now with over twenty three thousand followers on Instagram and twelve thousand views on the website, O’Mara’s virtual project has helped not only her overcome her own mental health illnesses, but has also provided other victims with a community of positivity. Story of the Mind now exists as a public platform where people struggling with their mental health are encouraged to share their troubles, experiences and stories.
Initially starting as an outlet for only O’Mara, Story of the Mind soon became a platform for anyone that felt they needed to discuss their own issues of mental health, or communicate with other people going through similar difficulties to themselves, which O’Mara says is “good for other people to see that they have similar experiences and aren’t alone in things that they think they might be.”
Introverted, nervous and clearly outside of her comfort zone, it is no secret that discussing the foundations of her blog is not a regular part of O’Mara’s day-to-day life as she tries to keep a low profile with her achievements. Wriggling in her seat and fidgeting with her hands as she talks, it is evident that this is the first interview in which O’Mara has openly expressed her ongoing struggles and goals.
“[The blog] sort of started as something I was doing because I enjoyed to do it and then, like I said, it sort of, some other people also found it useful which was surprising but also… it was sort of nice to see that if I was saying something that people… would actually listen.”
Only one year after its establishment, Story of the Mind has exploded as a popular online blog, with people writing to O’Mara daily, wanting to either publicly or anonymously share their experiences of mental health.
“I often get a lot of messages saying, ‘oh my gosh I’m so glad you said this because I thought I was the only one’. It’s good for them but also good for me. I’m like ‘oh phew, thank god I’m also not the only one’.”
Story of the Mind was able to help O’Mara overcome her own anxiety and combined with an assortment of content – mental health book reviews, meditation tips, general experiences with mental illness and easy cooking recipes – has rescued many from the isolation that most mental illnesses entrap their victims into.
“I’m just sort of doing it in a way that suits me and what I wanna do, and it’ll hopefully be helpful for other people.”
While it has been put to her that O’Mara is a talented and inspirational figure for youths struggling with mental illnesses, given her creation of a virtual community, O’Mara brushes such claims off, saying “I wouldn’t call myself that, it’s just something I do”.
O’Mara’s blog is not professional and isn’t specifically giving advice, rather just about one girl discussing her experiences with mental health and allowing others to share theirs.
The 21-year-old understands that despite her experiences with mental health, she is not a qualified professional and thus uses her website to refer her audience to qualified health professionals if they are in need of medical assistance, making sure that her website is “safe for other people”.
O’Mara wants to “make it very clear that I’m not a professional at doing this. This is sort of based off research and personal experience… there’s always a disclaimer at the bottom”. O’Mara never tries to be “fiercely saying, you know, don’t do this or do this or if this doesn’t work nothing’s going to work… I think it’s important to see a variety of perspectives and have a variety of things that might work for someone else”, and instead encourages people to share what’s worked for them in order to help others.
O’Mara never intended for her words and thoughts to be known to an audience. However, with the help of a timely Facebook notification and a few Instagram posts telling her mum that O’Mara was connected to the blog, it was suddenly exposed to her friends and family, eventually garnering the praising interest of the public as well.
“[The blog was] a really big secret until I you know, became rather sick and ended up in hospital and I was just like oh stuff it, you know, keeping this a secret isn’t helping anyone and it isn’t helping me so I might as well go for it.”
With captivating article titles such as ‘Nine lies my OCD keeps telling me’ and ‘Mental Illnesses are not metaphors’, Story of the Mind targets a millennial audience via cyber connections. O’Mara expresses that she wants others to be able to accept their struggles with mental health and seek help where needed, to communicate with each other in an online community, to potentially “share it all, give it to their friends and family saying this will help you”.
Outside of Story of the Mind, O’Mara is involved in many mental health programs and volunteers her time to make sure other victims find support.
Working with established organisations such as Batyr and Sane Australia, corresponding with Headspace Australia and simultaneously running her blog, Veronica O’Mara’s message to all youths battling mental health troubles is to accept it, seek help and to know they aren’t alone.
Veronica O’Mara hopes that nobody will live in denial the way she did to the point of getting sick, as she says “for so long saying “I’m fine” when it’s not really the case” and wants anyone dealing with mental illness to understand there’s always somebody to talk to, even if that somebody is a stranger on the internet, blogging via Story of the Mind.
Veronica O’Mara Podcast Audio:
Richelle Lau & Emma Tindale