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.

Your stories

How online community helped me

Rhiannon found positivity in online community during her recovery from depression and PTSD, but she also has a few words of wisdom to share in this blog

Rhiannon
Posted on 20/08/2018

When I found Elefriends, I finally found the support I needed

Scottishangel blogs about her journey toward finding Elefriends and the support it gives.

Posted on 11/12/2013

Online mental health tools

There are lot of ways to get support for your mental health online. On this page you'll find information about:

If you find that a particular online community or other form of online support isn't helpful for you, that doesn't necessarily mean that you can't find support anywhere online – you could always take a break for a while, or try a different platform. Remember that different sites tend to be useful for different people, at different times.

Online is the only place I can really make friends, so that helps obviously. For people who cannot get out to socialise, the internet is a link to the outside world. It IS a social life of sorts.

Please note

  • Except for Elefriends, Mind does not endorse any particular digital service, including those listed on this page.
  • The fast-moving nature of digital services means it's not possible to provide a complete list of online tools, sites and apps.
  • It is your responsibility to decide whether the service you are considering using is appropriate for you.

Online information

You can use online tools and services to find information about mental health problems, their symptoms and treatment options.

Popular sources of information include:

  • search engines like Google
  • information websites like Mind or NHS
  • online news websites
  • blogs/vlogs/podcasts.

For example, some people search the internet to research the benefits and possible side effects of different treatment options. Remember that not all the information you find online will be reliable  see our tips on finding trustworthy information to help you.

I believe particularly with my journey of recovery I found educating myself on mental distress very useful as I really felt like I wasn’t alone which was a huge relief. Also I was able to use this information to educate my parents and friends of what I was going through, which made them all so helpful.

Online communities

An online community is a group of people with common interests or experiences who use the internet to communicate together. Many different online communities exist, including mental health specific forums and communities like:

Some people find these communities helpful as they provide a way to share feelings and seek support from other people who may have similar experiences. This is sometimes called online peer support.

Mental health communities often have higher levels of moderation than general social media sites, which also might make you feel safer.

It’s been a difficult couple of years for me and accessing the support on Elefriends has been invaluable. It helped me to acknowledge that there were issues I need to address, helped when I was at work in getting me through the day and during my recovery.

Online therapy

Online therapy is accessible via the internet using a computer, phone or tablet. It is also known as e-therapy. It can be helpful if you're uncomfortable talking to someone in person, or if you have difficulty leaving the house or using transport.

The type of support offered by the NHS varies, but can include:

  • An online self-help course. These courses most commonly use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and you may hear them referred to as computerised cognitive behaviour therapy (CCBT). They usually last for several weeks or months and involve you completing a range of online exercises.
  • Live therapy with a therapist via instant messaging or a webcam.

Typically before you can access these services via the NHS, you'll be offered an assessment with your GP.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the organisation that produces guidelines on best practice in health care  suggests that CCBT can be helpful to treat anxiety and depression. However, NICE don't recommend CCBT for more severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. In these cases, they recommend more intensive treatment and support.

Private online therapy

Some private therapists offer online therapy sessions. You may also find websites offering low cost online therapy. There are many reasons you might consider going private, although it's not an option for everyone because it can be expensive, even if it's offered at a reduced cost.

Not all of these sites use professional therapists, so it's important to do some research before you start. You might want to check if the therapist is registered with a professional body like the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).

See our pages on getting the most from therapy for support to feel confident in seeking therapy online.

Social media

Social media sites can be quite different from each other – they might attract different groups of people and can feel like very different environments. Sites include:

  • Facebook (you can find Mind on Facebook here)
  • Twitter (you can follow us on Twitter @MindCharity)
  • Tumblr (we're on Tumblr here)
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • and many more ...

As lots of people use social media sites, they offer a way to stay in touch with friends and family, which can help support your wellbeing. Other people use social media as a way to share their personal stories and connect with others who have similar mental health experiences.

However, social media sites tend to have a low level of moderation, which means that people could post content that you find triggering or upsetting. For larger sites, it can also be difficult to get in touch with the people who run the site if you have a question or a problem.

[For me] Facebook is brutal. People only present perfect versions of themselves. Makes you think you're the only one struggling ... but Tumblr has been a lifeline for me. People who have similar experiences and talk to me with no agenda other than to help.

Apps

Apps provide a range of uses which could be helpful to manage your mental health, including:

  • general information and links to other relevant sites
  • lifestyle and wellbeing support, like tips for practising mindfulness
  • self-help support for people struggling with mental health problems like depression
  • booking appointments with a health service, like a GP.

You can access and download apps from major app stores like the Apple App Store and Google Play. Some apps are free, while others require a one-off payment or a regular monthly subscription.

Some apps ask you to enter personal health information. Before providing this, make sure the app is genuine and secure. The Orcha website provides reviews and assessments of health apps, including how the app uses and stores your data.

The NHS Apps Library includes a section on mental health apps, which you might find helpful.

I absolutely love the apps you can download on your phone, I think it's a really useful tool you can use to take action of your recovery. It's a great way to learn more about yourself.

Chatbots

A chatbot is a computer program that mimics conversation with people over the internet. Some apps use chatbots to support people with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Services include:

Blogs/vlogs/podcasts

Blogs, vlogs (video blogs) and podcasts (audio shows) are channels which individuals, groups and organisations use to publish things they've written, created or recorded. Sites include:

Some people find reading or watching other people's experiences can help them feel less alone, or help them understand their own feelings. It can also be a helpful way to find support if you prefer not to interact with others directly, or are not feeling up to it at the moment. Other people enjoy the process of making blogs, vlogs or podcasts, and sharing their experiences with the world.

I find writing a blog can really help, and it helps others to understand what you're going through.

However, blogs, vlogs and podcasts often have a comments section and some people find that being open to comments on their work or personal feelings can make them feel vulnerable or upset, particularly if people are not very nice. Some platforms allow you to control if people can leave comments on your work by turning the comments section on or off.

For more information about keeping your online experience positive, see our tabs on safety & privacyonline relationships and online / offline balance.

 


This information was published in September 2018 - to be revised in 2021. References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information see our page on permissions and licensing. 


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