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Wednesday, 7th March 2012 at 11:46 am

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Internet a Vital Connection for People with Mental Illness – Report

By Staff Reporter,

Flickr image: AttributionNoncommercial 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.

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One Comment

  • Sharon Sharon says:

    It’s about time this caught on. Those that are fearful within their working roles need to advocate for people, who want and actively use online services. Workers need to be part of this communicate dialogue to model & embrace the diversity of mindful connection with people.

    To work with this resistance and challenge the ambivalence is to influence the mindsets of those who can make changes at a level that really gets this change is necessary for the future to heal. Make way using social media in the workplace. I have been using social media to connect for 15 years now; the organization that I presently work for has clients whom connect online as well as face-to-face. There are many reasons why this engagement works.

    People employed in workplaces need not be afraid of how to stick up for the end-user, (person first); using values in action within a framework that actively seeks continuous improvement.

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