I’m happy to welcome Warrior Mom Lauren Hale as a contributor today. If you’re on Twitter and don’t know about #PPDChat, be sure to listen up! It’s one more great way to use social media to get peer support for PPD and related illnesses. Lauren also blogs at My Postpartum Voice.

When I first joined Twitter a little over five years ago, it was not for any particular purpose. Social media was starting to make waves and I figured, why not? My blog was nearly a year old and I wanted to explore new ways to reach people with what I was sharing.

I started blogging to reframe a pregnancy after two very difficult episodes of Postpartum OCD. My second episode tacked on PTSD for good measure. (A gold star for surviving the first go-round?)

As I got to know Twitter over the next couple of years and saw people holding “Twitter parties” for brands, I began to think, “Why can’t I do that for women and families with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders?”

On May 3, 2010, after consulting with a few trusted fellow Postpartum advocates including Katherine Stone, Amber Koter-Puline, and Ivy Shih Leung, I decided to go for it. I was remaking my blog over and figured there’d be no better time to add an extra dimension to the outreach I already actively provided.

#PPDChat was born.

I had no idea what would happen – if I’d be the only one there, talking to myself about Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders, if lots of people would show up, or if people would think I was crazy for wanting to openly discuss something which for so long only lived in whispers behind closed doors.

Our first chat was relatively well-attended (I don’t have the numbers) and the evening chat was even larger. Since then, the hashtag has taken off. Sure there have been times when I’ve contemplated giving it up altogether. But I’ve persevered, hanging onto the initial ideal that if I help at least one person per day, my personal hell for nearly 5 years was all worth it. (With two episodes, the first sadly untreated, it took me 5 years to even recognize myself after my initial episode).

The #PPDChat community is amazing. Some of the most resilient, astounding, compassionate, and all around forces of nature are members. These mamas (and some dads!) are tenacious and do battle with hell every day. Even while battling hell themselves, they do not hesitate to reach their hands and hearts out to those around them also battling. To watch a battle cry requesting help get answered by this community is nothing short of mind-blowing.

Not only do we have the two moderated chats every Monday at 1pm and 830pm ET, but we also have a closed community available for mamas (and dads) on Facebook. The hashtag is available 24/7 as well for anyone in need of support.

The one thing which has amazed me is the respect the hashtag has retained. Rarely, if ever, is it spammed or attacked. In a world in which people are often stigmatized for openly admitting to struggling with mental health issues, this is amazing. With every tweet using the #ppdchat hashtag, the stigma for Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders is torn down just a little bit more.

I hope you’ll consider saying, “Hi!” to our amazing group soon – because once you do, you will no longer be alone in your fight. In fact, you’ll have an army by your side, ready to fight right along with you.