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Online mental health

Explains the benefits and challenges to your mental health of being online, and gives ideas for looking after yourself online and getting support. Also provides information on staying safe online and getting the balance right between your online and offline life.

For general guidance on web safety and security, specialist websites like Get Safe Online contain lots more useful information. If you're under 18, the UK Safer Internet Centre and NSPCC websites may be helpful too.

How could being online help my mental health?

Using online resources can be a great way to support your mental health. They can be helpful in a number of ways, including:

  • Health information. You can search the internet for information about mental health problems, their symptoms and treatment options. Some people find researching their problems empowering. For example, you can use the internet to research the benefits and possible side effects of medications.

Tips for finding trustworthy information

Remember that not all the information you find online will be reliable. Some useful questions to ask yourself are:

  • Who has written it and why?
  • Are they a reliable source?
  • Do they have a particular bias or agenda?
  • When was it written? Is it up to date?
  • Is this factual information, or is it someone's personal experience or opinion? Remember - what's true for someone else might not be true for you.
  • Is it relevant to my situation?

If you're looking for reliable information about mental health diagnoses and treatments, it's a good idea to choose evidence-based sources, such as the Mind or NHS websites. You can also visit your GP for reliable information.

  • Other people's experiences. You can often find people who have had similar mental health experiences online. Reading other people's accounts of mental health can help validate your own experiences and make you feel less alone.
  • Connecting with other people. Online communities and social media networks can provide you with peer support. Typically, these sites provide you with an online space to talk about symptoms, discuss side effects of treatment and share support. Some people find it easier to communicate online rather than in person or over the phone. Being online can also help some people talk more honestly about how they are feeling and connect with others, especially if they going through a difficult time.
  • Accessing treatment. You can search the internet and use online communities to find new tips to help you manage your mental health and wellbeing. For some people, being anonymous online can help them overcome obstacles preventing them from seeking help. There are also a range of digital tools, such as health apps, which can help support your mental health.
  • Expressing yourself. There are many ways to express yourself creatively online, including creating and sharing photos, stories and videos. Some people find communicating online a useful way to test how they are feeling before sharing with friends and family. This can help you clarify how you feel or what you want before you talk to those closest to you.
  • Challenging myths and raising awareness. Sharing your experiences online is also a way to challenge myths around mental health and raise awareness. It can also help motivate other people to seek out support for their own mental health. If you are interested in blogging for Mind, you can find more information here.

"It was good to share experiences and find that many other people are in the same boat."

Online resources might be particularly useful if you feel socially isolated and less able to engage in face-to-face support.

They can also be helpful because you:

  • can access them 24 hours a day
  • don't usually have to wait or get a referral
  • don't need a diagnosis to use them
  • can use most sites for free
  • can access them wherever you are (if you have access to the internet on your phone or other mobile device).

Remember, different people find different types of support useful. You might also find it helpful to combine online support with offline support, such as attending face-to-face groups.

Vlogging for mental health

Watch Jessica talk about how using YouTube and other social media to share her experiences of mental health has helped her cope.

Could it make my mental health worse?

While being online can be helpful for your mental health, there might be times when using online tools could have a negative impact on your mental health.

  • Comparing yourself to others. Spending time on online communities and social media sites can mean that you end up comparing yourself to others. This can negatively impact your self-esteem and how you view your life. If you find this happening to you, you could try limiting the amount of time you spend on these sites. You could also try taking a longer break from any sites you find unhelpful.
  • Feeling anxious or stressed. You might feel pressure to be constantly checking your social media accounts and taking part in online conversations, which can cause feelings of anxiety and stress. Comparing your life to others on social media can also mean you feel anxious and stressed.
  • Difficulty sleeping. For some people, spending lots of time at night checking social media and other online sites disrupts their sleeping pattern. Some studies suggest stopping checking your phone at 10pm to give you time to unwind before going to bed. (See our information on sleep problems for tips on coping with sleep problems.)
  • Feeling lonely. Some people find using online communities and social media a lonely experience as it doesn't give them the same feeling of connection as offline support. If you find you are feeling lonely while using these sites, you could try connecting with people offline. For example, you could join a face-to-face peer support group. (See tabs on online relationships and online / offline balance for more information.)
  • Feeling overwhelmed. Being a friend to other people online can feel great, but caring for someone who's going through a difficult time can also be very stressful and overwhelming, and could affect your own wellbeing. (See our pages on managing stress and supporting someone else for tips.)

To try and avoid some of these issues, it might be a good idea to put some thought into what type of online tool is best for you right now, and to think about issues like safety & privacy, online relationships, and online / offline balance.

What offline support could I get?

Sometimes online support can't realistically give us all the help we want. If you find that things are becoming too much for you to cope with, or are worried about the way you are feeling or behaving, you may want to get additional support offline. You can:

(See our page on useful contacts for other organisations that might be able to help.)

This information was published in September 2018.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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