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Looking after your mental health online

Explains the benefits and challenges to your mental health of being online. Also has information on staying safe online, getting the balance right between your online and offline life, and finding reliable mental health information online.

What can I do to keep myself safe online?

When you're online it's important to think about how to keep yourself safe. While there are many benefits to your mental health, there are also challenges. And there are things that could put you at risk or negatively impact your mental health. 

These are some tips which may help to keep you safe:

Think about who will see what you share

Just because a site requires you to log in, this doesn't necessarily mean that your profile is entirely private. Some parts might be shown publicly.

Sharing your feelings online can help during a difficult time. But before posting about your personal feelings or experiences, try to consider how you might feel about what you've shared, and with who, in the future.

Don’t share information that identifies you and allows people to gather more information about you, if you don't want them to. For example, social media handles or details of where you work. And avoid sharing your address or telephone number.

Protect yourself from excessive online spending

It's very easy to spend money online. If you're feeling unwell, this can be a quick way to make yourself feel better. Impulsive decisions about money can also be an issue during a period of mania or hypomania. This can lead to spending that can leave you in lots of debt.

If online spending when you're unwell is an issue that affects you, see our money and mental health pages for information that may help.

Protect yourself from triggering content

If you come across something that upsets you, close the screen or scroll quickly past it. You might even want to turn off your computer or mobile device and take a break. Some people find that using a distraction technique also helps. For example, focusing on your breathing, watching TV or doing some housework.

If you find yourself in a bad place or having negative thoughts after seeing triggering content, you might want to speak to someone about your mental health

Protect yourself and others by thinking about the impact of what you share

Check the guidance and ground rules for any online communities you join. None of us wants to unintentionally post anything that harms others. You might want to consider using a content warning in some cases. Or avoid using any graphic images or detail around methods of self-harm or suicide.

You could also avoid posting anything that invites comparison, for example sharing your weight or weight loss. This could be upsetting for people who struggle with their body image.

Try to avoid online self-diagnosis

There are lots of online resources about mental health problems and treatments, but they're not always accurate. There may be also be important information that you're missing. Talking to a GP is usually the first step in exploring what treatment and support might work best for you. See our page on talking to your GP for more information.

Remember that sharing tips and experiences doesn't replace medical advice

It can be really valuable to read about other people's experiences as part of an online community. And they may offer lots of useful tips. But remember that what worked for others may not work for you. You should always seek advice about medication or treatment from a healthcare professional. And when talking about your own experiences, try to avoid giving anything that could be interpreted as professional advice.

Manage your screen time

It's important to take regular screen breaks so you don't strain your eyes. Some people also find that using screens in the evening can negatively affect their sleep. See our suggestions of things you can do to help you switch off and to manage your screen time.

Get immediate help if you need it

There may be times when you need immediate help and you can't get this support from being online. You may need to get offline support. Our information on crisis services has more information about services that may be able to help.

I've learnt that when I'm feeling a particular way, that it may be best to stay away from certain websites. For example, if I'm feeling too hyper then I need to stay away from online shopping sites, or if I'm very low then it's not appropriate to post my feelings on my favourite gaming site.

What can I do about cyberbullying and abuse?

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place online.

It can be horrible to experience bullying or abuse online. And it can have an impact on your mental health. Remember – you don't have to put up with it. If you experience bullying or abuse, there are some things you can do immediately:

  • Don't respond. It can encourage further unwanted communication.
  • Restrict the person. Many online services offer options to block, mute, hide, snooze or delete other people. This means they won’t be able to contact you and you can’t see what they write. Most social media sites have a help section where you can find out how to block people from contacting you.
  • Keep records of any posts or messages that you've received. For example, take a screenshot or save messages to an offline file. This can help if you need to give evidence to the site moderators or the police.
  • Report it to the site moderators. Most websites will have a policy for reporting bad behaviour, so make sure you read this before you start. You can also report harmful content to the national reporting centre Report Harmful Content if this hasn’t worked.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member. They may be able to offer help and support.
  • Contact the police if you’re being threatened or abused online and you feel in danger. You can contact them online or call 101. If you are in immediate danger, call 999.

It's easy to delete and block people. Don't worry about hurting their feelings. Look after yourself.

This information was published in July 2023. We will revise it in 2026. 

References and bibliography available on request.

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