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Social Media Update: Here Come New Ideas for Providing Support in Mental Illness

by CapCareAdmin on May 23, 2015

Individuals with severe mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder, have been utilizing a popular social media website similar to YouTube to receive and provide peer support.

John Naslund, A PhD student in health policy at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, and his colleagues have taken it upon themselves to analyze the data from YouTube and this new website.

The researchers utilized a technique called online ethnography to analyze 3,044 comments posted to 19 videos uploaded by individuals who self-identified as having bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder. Researchers then employed qualitative methods to analyze the comments and find common threads among the data.

In speaking about his findings Nasland exclaimed,

“What we found most surprising about our findings was that people with severe mental illness were so open about their illness experiences on a public social media website like YouTube. We saw that people with severe mental illness did not appear to be concerned about the risks of openly sharing their personal illness experiences because they really wanted to help others with similar mental health problems.”

Naslund and his team found that individuals with severe mental illness used YouTube for several purposes. These purposes include to support and defend each other, to find hope and feel less alone, and to share personal stories and methods for coping with day-to-day challenges. Furthermore, they sought to learn from the experiences of others about seeking mental health care and using certain medications.

Nasland’s research team explained, “It helps them to overcome fears associated with living with mental illness, and it also creates a sense of community among these individuals.”

Severe mental illness such as, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder, are amidst the leading causes of disability worldwide. Not to mention, serious mental illnesses are identified with a great deal of discrimination and stigma.

“What is also important is that our findings are consistent with how peer support is viewed in mental health research and practice, which suggests that YouTube or other social media websites might help to extend the reach of informal peer support activities between people with severe mental illness,” Said Nasland.

Finally, Nasland said,

“The research does have limitations, however, in that the work was exploratory. Therefore, it was not possible for us to determine whether YouTube can provide the benefits of peer support to a wider community of individuals with severe mental illness,”

To learn more about severe mental illness, or if you or a loved one is seeking help for any mental health illness, contact Capitol Care at their New Jersey department of mental health for a confidential discussion.

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