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Professor Louis Appleby is a mental health clinician and adviser to the government on health of offenders & on suicide prevention


Why I started tweeting is not why I am still doing it

Why I started tweeting is not why I am still doing it.

I started out of fear – fear of being left behind, a powerful force in men of a certain age.

I was going on to my kids  about the absurdity of ending up in court for something you say on twitter – since when was being foolish a criminal offence?

They pointed out that I was talking as if someone on twitter was just typing alone into their PC when in fact this was a whole, real world.  And incidentally, one I wasn’t part of.  That did it.

Striking Gold

But the moment when twitter became a daily companion happened two months later – the Olympic opening ceremony.  I was away and texting about it to my kids (them again) who were watching it at home.

After a few minutes I started wondering if I had become a teenager’s worst nightmare, the parent who won’t stop talking, so I switched to twitter.

Until then I had stuck to work topics – offender health and suicide prevention – and told myself all the usual things: twitter would make me more accessible to colleagues, more accountable to the public.

Now I began to stretch my subject matter a little – Danny Boyle’s depiction of the NHS and multicultural Britain gave me the excuse.

From there it was a small step to personal reflections culminating in the tumultuous evening when Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis won gold and the entire country went wild.

Part diary, part dialogue

Nowadays I see twitter as part diary, part dialogue.

It is still mainly about work but the connection  between what I tweet and what I do for a living can be tenuous.

I don’t have a plan, I just tweet about what interests me – a newly published study, an off-beat bit of science, the latest episode of Casualty.

I’m fascinated by the history of medicine, ever since I wrote a medical travel book, and can’t resist anniversaries.  I am defensive about mental health services and feel compelled to respond when someone takes a casual swipe at what they do.

I do sometimes worry I am turning out 140 characters of condensed gibberish so it is a relief when people reply.  I do my best to answer questions, though I can’t summon the energy for arguments.

I have occasionally joined a trending topic, as with #PopLeveson – converting song titles into the oblique questioning style of the Leveson Inquiry.




The morning ritual

So I start each morning by checking twitter for breaking news.

By then @LisaSaysThis has already posted an optimistic message of leadership and @CCLeicsPolice has set out his day ahead for the benefit of the paying public. [This last account belongs to Chief Constable Simon Cole, the national lead on policing and mental health issues who has also written a post on why he tweets for this series.]

I don’t follow many celebrities but I am a fan of @RevRichardColes, whose whimsical world is straight out of PG Wodehouse, and @Cmdr_Hadfield on the International Space Station who tweets photos of the Earth and once in a while talks to @WilliamShatner.

Through twitter I am on friendly terms with people I will never meet and see others I have known for years in a new light – like @PaulJRethink with his interest in all things classical.

I have (I think) come to understand far better the perspective of probation and the police.

More than anything, twitter has reminded me how many amusing, well-informed people there are out there.

It attracts publicity for trolling and abuse but far more often it is principled, funny and tolerant.

A cure for impatience

And it has almost cured my type A personality, my lifelong impatience.

Because these days I always have something to do in a check-in queue or on a late train back to Manchester.


This is the 35th  post in the criminal justice/legal Why I tweet series. Read the others here.


If you’d like to develop your tweeting skills, check out my online Twitter coaching service which includes an individualised profile of your Twitter style.


One Response

  1. I am very grateful for your tweets Professor Appleby. I have had a 34 year career in mental health in Cambs and Herts with a special interest in suicide and homicide prevention throughout so I have huge respect for your work at NCISH. Through your tweets about your mother and your various travels I also feel I’ve got to know you a bit which is nice. I am horrified that some people on line are not willing to accept the latest data on suicides nationally which is that the numbers have NOT gone up since Covid.

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