How to stay safe online

Explains how to keep yourself safe and look after your wellbeing when you use the internet for information or support for your mental health. It covers protecting your privacy, how to take relationships offline safely and how to address online bullying and abuse.

Your stories

Is social networking good for your mental health

Scoobysue
Posted on 01/10/2013

Elefriends: my healing family

Angelo blogs about the different ways in which Elefriends has supported her.

Posted on 05/12/2013

Rules of engagement, mental health and the internet

Vanessa shares her tips for making online interaction a mentally healthy experience.

Posted on 04/09/2012

How can I find support online?

There are lot of ways to get support for your mental health online. This page considers some things to be aware of when you use:

Even if you don't go online to actively get support for your mental health problem, you might find that you get more support than you realise from the social interactions and friendships you build. If you find that a particular online community or group isn't helpful for you at all, that doesn't necessarily mean that you can't find support anywhere online – you might just need to try a few different things.

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 online 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

[For me] Facebook is brutal. People only present perfect versions of themselves. Makes you think you're the only one struggling...

What are the benefits?

What should I be aware of?

  • Lots of people use this type of community so it might be a good place to stay in touch with friends and family.
  • Social networks let you set your own privacy settings, so you have more control over who you interact with.
  • There are often ways of meeting or interacting with new people (e.g. hashtags or groups).
  • They have a low level of moderation, and the people who run the site might not be easy to get in touch with if you have a question or problem.
  • You might sometimes find seeing so many people's updates overwhelming or upsetting, especially if you're not feeling very well.

... but Tumblr has been a lifeline for me. People who have similar experiences and talk to me with no agenda other than to help.

Blogs and vlogs

Blogs and vlogs (video blogs) are channels which individuals, groups and organisations use to publish articles they've written or videos they've created. They're usually centred around a particular topic or theme. Sites include:

What are the benefits?

What should I be aware of?

  • Communities can develop around a particular person or organisation's blog – for example, in the comments section.
  • Talking to people you meet in this way can mean you share an interest.
  • Comments sections might sometimes be unmoderated so may be less safe to use.
  • All your posts will be public so you may need to be careful about what you post.
  • It's possible that an individual could decide to stop blogging.

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

Online community forums

There are lots of different forms online that can be general or based around a specific topic, for example a band or local area. There are also mental health specific forums and communities like:

This is sometimes called online peer support.

What are the benefits?

What should I be aware of?

  • Mental health specific forums might have a higher level of moderation when it comes to triggering content or disagreements, which means you might feel safer.
  • Members of these communities will usually have experience of mental health problems, so you can to talk to people who might be more likely to understand what you're going through.
  • Posts are normally saved, so you can look at previous posts if you want to.
  • Your posts can be any length you like.
  • There is usually a sign up process, so you will need an email address.
  • Your comments or posts might be removed by the moderators if they're deemed inappropriate or potentially triggering to other people.
  • Conversations often happen over days or weeks as people return to a topic.
  • People using these kinds of forums will often be struggling with their mental health themselves. This means updates and conversations can be around difficult issues which you might find upsetting or triggering. See our page on looking after your wellbeing for ways you might manage this.

In the end I've had to avoid all the [mental health] message boards. The content can be really triggering, and the paranoia ... [for me] there was too much emotional risk.

Chat rooms

There are lots of different chat rooms available online, hosted by lots of different organisations.

What are the benefits?

What should I be aware of?

  • There is usually not a sign up process and it is therefore quick and easy to use.
  • They're usually completely anonymous, which you might find makes it easier for you to talk to people.
  • They're not usually moderated.
  • There's a high risk of some people posting irresponsible or inappropriate content in chat rooms, because they're anonymous and unmoderated.
  • Posts are not usually saved so you can't look back at previous conversations. Interactions move very quickly, so they may not be suitable if you want to build lasting friendships or have a conversation over time.

Private messaging

Private messaging can feel similar to text messaging someone or calling them up on your phone, but it's usually conducted online using apps, such as:

  • Whatsapp
  • Facebook messenger
  • Skype

What are the benefits?

What should I be aware of?

  • You can stay in contact with people you know without the costs associated with texts or phone calls.
  • Some apps let you communicate in fun or innovative ways.
  • With some apps, you can only communicate with someone if you have their phone number. If you don't know the other person well, you might not feel comfortable with this. (See our page on protecting your privacy for information about keeping your personal details safe.)
  • You might feel like you should always be available via private messaging, or that you always have to respond to messages right away, which can feel overwhelming.

 


This information was published in June 2015. We will revise it in 2018.


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