Want to connect with others and create a supportive blog community that protects your — and your readers’ — privacy? Try these tools.
Two Tools to Make Your Blog a Supportive, Safe Space
Last month, we highlighted bloggers writing about mental health issues — and it struck a chord with many of you.
Lots of you commented that you also write about struggles with mental health, and were hoping your blogs would be a medium to help you connect with others and a safe space for talking about sensitive issues. There are two features baked into WordPress.com to support both goals.
Unfortunately, there’s still a good deal of stigma around mental illness, making many of us uncomfortable being public about our struggles. Leaving a public comment on someone’s blog isn’t always easy on fun posts, let alone on something as fraught with judgement as mental health.
Putting a contact form on your blog gives readers a way to connect with you privately. They can share their own stories and offer support without having to reveal more than they’re comfortable with to the internet at large.
To insert a form into a post or page, click the “Add Contact Form” button at the top of the Visual or Text Editor to pull up the form builder, which looks like this:
You can edit the fields, delete them, or add more — it all depends on what you’d like your form to say and do. As you create the form, you’ll see a preview of it right in the form builder. When you’re satisfied, click “Add this form to my post.”
(Note: when you click “Add,” the form tool will convert your form to code and you won’t see the actual form in your editing window. Don’t worry, your form is there — to see it, save your post and preview it.)
In its simplest version, a contact form could simply provide space to input a name and note. You can even decide not to make fields like “name” required, to give people the option to be totally anonymous.
In the “Email Notifications” tab of the tool, you can set the email address you’d like to use to receive responses (the default is the address you use with WordPress.com). You can also review responses in your dashboard.
Using a contact form protects your privacy as well as your reader’s: if you blog anonymously or pseudonymously and would prefer not to list an email address on your blog, it allows readers to get in touch without revealing your identity.
Sometimes, you need to write or have updates to share, but you’d only like family, friends, and/or regular readers to be able to view them. For these truly sensitive posts, take advantage of privacy settings.
You can set entire blogs to be private and password-protected, but you can also control access on a per-post basis by password-protecting individual posts. Head to the “Visibility” settings in the publish box (at left), select “Password protected,” pick a password, and give it to those you’d like to be able to see the post.
If you need to go further, the “Private” option makes the post invisible to all but WordPress.com users who are Administrators or Editors of your blog (here’s a rundown on user roles if you need a refresher).
To cultivate a community or collaborative blog, you may choose to make the entire site private and password-protected. To set a blog to be private, head to Settings → Reading in your dashboard, scroll down to “Site visibility,” and select “Private.” Visitors will get a pop-up notice prompting them to request access, and you’ll have a safe community where you all know one another and can share stories out of the public blogging eye.
For really active communities, try a theme like P2, which allows a blog’s users to post and comment from the home page, and has real-time commenting. It’s how we collaborate internally at WordPress.com and is great for conversation-oriented communication.
By starting a blog to write about your experiences, you’ve already taken a big step toward becoming part of a community that can be a worldwide support network. We’re happy WordPress.com offers additional tools to help you carve out and control a supportive, safe space.
Feb 17th at 7:04 pm
Very informative. I never gave it a thought about how forms can be of great help to people who want to contact the blogger privately.
Feb 17th at 7:27 pm
These are some good tips. Thanks for sharing
Feb 17th at 8:06 pm
Thanks for this! Hopefully it wlll help some more people out! Also I just like to let everyone know here. for someone who does suffer from depression, I’m writing about it in a book!
Feb 17th at 10:23 pm
Reblogged this on CabbageTalk and commented:
I have suffered with mental health issues the majority of my life. From mild mood swings, to full blown clinical depression to anxiety and stress. I wouldn’t say I’m a certified nut-job, but I come very close! Since stumbling across WordPress, and creating CabbageTalk I have been able to get things off of my chest which has relieved enough stress or tension for me to be able to take a step back and see things from my partner, my wonderful strong man’s point of view. This has now meant that I am able to identify and correct a few of my own problems that cause larger issues within my family. Without my blog, my release, I would bottle it up. Even though I am not necessarily talking about feelings or my mental health [in my blog]. Just the sense of being able to let thoughts leave my brain without losing them is a huge help.
Feb 17th at 11:44 pm
Thank you for the comments form – all your information is perfectly clear to me, but when I open the blog again to view the form, shouldn’t the boxes be empty? They all have my name, email address, etc written automatically in the boxes.
Feb 18th at 12:39 am
Michelle, Thank you for this. Managing essentially private exchanges offline is a very important capability.
Our Blog – a cyber pub called http://www.pigsarms.com.au sometimes has discussions about mental illness. Apparently, just like prisons, pubs also attract a lot of people with psychological or psychiatric issues. And just like real pub patrons, some cyberians self medicate with alcohol and seek online therapy from reluctant and not well-qualified bystanders.
Once we had a regular visitor who went over the top and threatened suicide online. Two of the other regulars spent hours ‘talking’ to the person, while I contacted the mental health workers in the troubled person’s city in another state. The good news is that the incident was resolved successfully and all is OK now. But we learnt a lot about what to do and how to handle incredibly stressful incidents like this. If you’d like a few words on this, let me know. We always include real world helpline contact details when a piece touching on the subject is published.
Feb 18th at 12:51 am
Thank you for this post!!!
Feb 18th at 1:59 am
I am impressed with the WordPress support of blogging for mental illness. This is once again an example of the sensitivity to the topic. It will be a wonderful world when mental illness is no longer feared, but instead understood as an often treatable disease.
Feb 18th at 2:48 am
Have you highlighted blogs about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia? They are twin illnesses that share many similar symptoms. It is estimated that 200 to 400 million people worldwide have these illnesses. Like mental illness, it is an invisible illness. As such other people often misunderstand those that have it. Those that have it are frustrated, depressed, and lonely because a cause hasn’t been definitively found. The best one can try to do is manage symptoms, and that isn’t easy as the options are extremely limited.
Just today, I found someone who was just diagnosed. She visited my blog and found comfort. There are many good blogs on this subject. Would you be willing to highlight these important blogs so we can reach more of the 200 to 400 million people who are currently suffering?
Feb 18th at 3:21 am
I like the idea of the comment form. I would like to use the password protected posts, but all my subscribers still get a notification of a post. Since all of my readers are family and friends, some would wonder why they aren’t allowed to see the password protected post. Would be great if there were some way around this. There may be, but I haven’t figured it out. I really appreciate these posts that explain features to us. Thanks.
Feb 18th at 7:28 am
I am impressed with the password protected posts. This will definitely help me filter what I post.
Feb 18th at 9:16 am
I now know better these additional features on WordPress. How good to give them a try! And, how good it feels to respect the privacy of others!
Profound thanks for sharing, Michelle.
Feb 18th at 9:17 am
Absolutely, great issue
To get a private sense from…
Thanks to WP providing confident’ connections
Feb 18th at 11:00 am
thanks a lot, really cool and helpful tools!
Feb 18th at 12:22 pm
I didn’t read all the comments but I notice you said that if signed in my email and name default…but when I tested it… it didn’t
Also is it in ‘one’ of the fields I would explain that for eg. If you wish to leave a comment only visible to me please do so in this form… ? Thanks Diane
Feb 18th at 5:09 pm
I have a contact form but strangely sometimes I don’t even realize someone has provided a comment direct until months later I look in wordpress.com back-end. Hmm.
As for private comments + some select private posts, it suits situations for small organizations with a public newsletter or news media but they need to keep closed amongst themselves.
Feb 19th at 4:15 pm
I’ve got the contact form going, but maybe the heading isn’t great. Any suggestions on headings to use? Or language that might draw the more reticent out of the wood work? I’m very interest in growing Crazy Good Parent through guest posts, but just realized that there are probably people who may not want to be publicly exposed.
Feb 20th at 12:46 am
I love the suggestion of including a contact form for people to share with me on a private level.
Feb 20th at 12:52 am
Thanks for this article. It’s great we can also publish in private mode – that’s what I was looking for too
Feb 21st at 5:36 am
Not a single page-view, though 3.5 days is not a lot to go on. The Stats page says for some reason it has had no page views since 1970.
Feb 22nd at 11:21 am
A big thank you to all Automatticians! With these tools, y’all given Lovegerians a more personal way to share their personal relationship struggles – privately, with me.
LOVEGERIA is a community on Love, Romance and Friendship.
Feb 25th at 9:56 am
Reblogged this on Romeo at Twenty and commented:
Love that WordPress is making it much easier for people to relieve any stresses/tensions by simply blogging. Especially loving the password-protected post idea when you just need to ‘vent’. Thank you WordPress.
Feb 27th at 7:24 pm
Thanks for all the help and to make this so easy, I’m new to all of these and I’m loving it!
Feb 27th at 9:01 pm
A very interesting issue.
Feb 28th at 2:20 am
Nice article. Feeling happy to blog again. Feeling gratefull to use WordPress.