Wednesday, 7th March 2012 at 11:46 am
Flickr image: Some rights reserved by tango.mceffrie
Many people with a mental illness are turning to the internet and social media to manage their lives, overcome isolation and stay connected, according to new research by the national mental health charity SANE Australia.
The research surveyed 605 respondents via an anonymous online survey, and found that people with a mental illness are enthusiastic users of the internet and social media to manage their lives and make social connections.
It also found that 93 per cent of the respondents were confident using the internet, and that 95.8 per cent had access to the internet at home.
Executive director of SANE Barbara Hocking said that the majority of people with mental illness in the survey use the internet to manage their finances, shop and engage with government agencies such as Centrelink.
“Importantly, the majority (72.7 per cent) told us that the internet made it easier to maintain existing relationships and to make new ones,” Hocking said.
The report also revealed that four out of five respondents also have a Facebook account, and one in three have a Twitter account.
Hocking said that this was an important finding because “It tells us how the internet plays a valuable role in helping people overcome isolation and stay connected”.
“It also highlights what people who are not connected are potentially missing out on,” Hocking added.
Health information was also highly sought after with more than 60 per cent of respondents saying they had used the internet to search for health information with the Victorian Government’s betterhealth channel topping the list, followed by the ninemsn Health + Wellbeing site and mydr.com.au.
One third of respondents had also used online self-help programs such as moodgym, e-couch and anxietyonline.
Executive director of Black Dog Institute Professor Helen Christensen said it was encouraging to see that mobile and internet health sites are improving the lives of people with mental health problems.
“Access to the internet has become an essential part of our lives and it will increasingly be used to deliver health services," Professor Christensen said.
Hocking said that it was important to ensure that everyone who wants it, has online access and support to perform essential tasks, such as browsing for information and using email.
She said that people without access are likely to have other disadvantages such as being homeless or in poor housing, being unable to manage finances or to be living in regional or remote areas.
“Government agencies must ensure the Internet is never the sole means of information and contact." Hocking said.