In order to find an online tool that works for you, you might find it helpful to ask yourself:
- What am I looking for? There are a huge range of online tools available, all of which have different aims and purposes. Before you go online, have a think about what you're hoping to achieve. This will help you work out what type of tool might be best for you right now. For example, you might want to talk to other people with similar experiences, or you might find you want to watch a video rather than interacting with others directly. This might change from time to time, depending on your needs and how you're feeling.
- How am I feeling right now? Monitoring how you are feeling can help you decide if being online would be helpful for your mental health at the moment. For example, if you're not feeling well, you might be more vulnerable to things you'd normally be able to deal with. Being online when you are unwell might also mean you act differently to how you would if you were well.
- How is the site moderated? Online communities and social media sites differ in the levels of moderation they offer users, so it's worth checking this before joining. For example, compared to general social media sites, mental health specific forums, like Mind's Elefriends, often have a higher level of moderation when it comes to triggering content, which might make you feel safer.
- Does this particular service make me feel better or worse overall? If a particular service, for example an online community, is making you feel worse, perhaps it's not right for you. You might find that another type of service, or a different online community, works better for you right now.
- Might I find something triggering? For example, a blog that talks explicitly about self-harm may make you feel the urge to harm yourself, or a post about someone else's experience of depression may make you feel low. Avoid sites and feeds you know you might find triggering. See more information about how to deal with triggering content here.
- Do the people I connect with online share my goals? Connecting with people online can be great, but it can be difficult if they don't share the same goals as you. For example, if you have an eating problem and are looking online for positive ways to challenge those thoughts and feelings, connecting with people who aren't ready to seek support for their own problems might not help.
- How much energy do I spend supporting others online? Being a friend to other people can feel great, but caring for someone who's going through a difficult time can also be very stressful. If you're finding that the amount of time and energy you're putting into supporting others is starting to make your own mental health worse, it might be a good idea to take a break for a while. You can also find tips that might be helpful on our pages on managing stress and supporting someone else.
For more information about the range of online mental health tools available, and how they might be able to help you, go to the online mental health tools tab.
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.