You have a ton of questions relating to mental health. You don’t want to ask just anyone, and you’re not sure where to turn. Finding help online in forums is easier than you think and can help relieve your concerns quickly and inexpensively.
Always Mentally Plugged In
It seems like we are doing just about everything online these days—shopping, reading, watching TV, communicating, researching, and playing. Our Smartphones and computers allow us to swiftly garner a wealth of information and answers with just a few clicks and swipes.
Sites like WebMD and GetThrive allow curious and interested people to research and contemplate a wide variety of health and wellness issues. Other sites focus on mental health concerns, providing a forum for discussion, interaction, and support. While these sites don’t always replace a qualified professional, they do serve a valuable purpose.
Is an Online Forum the Right Place to Discuss Mental Health?
People turn to mental health forums for a variety of reasons: they may have difficulty obtaining proper healthcare due to distance, cost, lack of insurance coverage, or a host of other factors. Perhaps they are uncomfortable seeking guidance from a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor. They may even be fearful of the stigma often attached to those seeking mental health care.
These forums can be helpful, but they come along with several potential negatives to go along with all the positives they can offer.
Low-to-no cost for help and advice
Supportive community; easy to “open up” to
Easier to share openly in an anonymous forum environment
Easy to find others that relate to you and that you can relate to as well
Many sites offer referrals to professionals when warranted
However, the following caveats also need to be considered before you open up your lives to compete strangers in an online mental health forum.
You get what you pay for—free advice might not be the best advice
Self-diagnosing or having others diagnose you is risky
Many sites do not have professional support or guidance
Opening up to strangers can be risky
The support and help you seek might not be what you get
Essentially, the best advice will always come from a qualified mental health professional. If you suspect you or a loved one are suffering from any form of mental illness, professional help should be your first, best choice. But for smaller concerns or general inquiries, the Internet can be quite a valuable first step to seeing if more help is warranted.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum…
Again, if you’re uneasy, or unable to seek out a licensed mental health professional, you can start out by seeking help from like-minded people in a forum. Hopefully, they will provide support. Before you dive headlong into a forum and spill your life story, remember a few key things to stay safe:
- NEVER use your real name or the names of family, friends, etc.
- NEVER give out too much personal information
- ALWAYS confirm any diagnoses or advice with a doctor
- NEVER take any medications or try any therapies recommended without first talking to your doctor or a mental health professional
- Understand that even if there are professionals on the forum, they don’t always have all the answers
- Realize that perhaps not everyone there is your friend or has your best interests in mind
- Be polite: if people offer advice you don’t like, don’t attack them
Going into one of these websites with a clear objective and your eyes open will keep you safe and allow you to have the best possible experience. In many cases, these forums can be effective places for people seeking answers, a refuge, a place to vent, and genuine comfort and advice.
Desperately Seeking Solutions: Mental Health Forum Resources
The following are a few well-known and recognized sites that offer a wide variety of mental health forums, discussion boards, and advice:
- http://us.reachout.com/forums/ (specializes in ages 13-24)
MOST IMPORTANT: If you or a loved one is in serious distress or jeopardy, don’t waste time online—get professional help from a crisis hotline, the local ER or call 911.
Safety first, and never feel ashamed about asking for help. We’ve all been there…