8 online communities for mental health and wellbeing
This National Mental Health Week, we look at eight online communities that provide peer support for Australians living with mental health and wellbeing concerns.
It may surprise you to hear that each year one in five Australians will experience mental illness. Approximately four percent will experience a major depressive episode, and 14% will be affected by an anxiety disorder. Mental health concerns also represent the third largest cause of disability burden in Australia, accounting for an estimated 27% of the total years lost due to disability.
It is therefore timely this National Mental Health Week to take a look at the online mental health and wellbeing communities that can help those living with mental illness, and their friends, family and carers.
Peer support has been proven to be beneficial to recovery. Key elements of peer support in mental health include being built on shared personal experience and empathy, focusing on an individual’s strengths not weaknesses, and works towards the individual’s wellbeing and recovery. These Australian communities help to connect with people to communicate openly and without judgement – learning and improving through shared experiences – and caring for one another.
The beyondblue Online Forums are a community of people experiencing or recovering from mental illness, and their friends, family and carers. Registered members are encouraged to share their experiences of depression and anxiety and talk to others who may be experiencing something similar, across topics including Mental Health, Healthy Families, and Healthy Places – each with relevant subcategories and user-generated threads of conversation.
The forums have a well-established set of community champions, who help to manage the community, and ensure that it is a safe place for all participants. Access to the forums is free, and open to anyone located in Australia.
SANE Australia uses living stories from people affected by complex mental illness, to show how connection and support can make a meaningful difference to our lives.
SANE hosts two anonymous online support forums, divided between:
Since 1998, ReachOut has been Australia’s leading online mental health organisation servicing Australia’s youth, working to deliver tools that address youth mental health issues and reduce youth suicide.
The ReachOut.com Forums are a place for 14-25 year old Australians to talk to other young people, and read each other’s experiences. Peer support within the forums is provided by both formally trained peer moderators and informally between members – divided into Hang Out, Wellbeing, and Tough Times.
In 2016, ReachOut launched the ReachOut Parents, to help parents of teenagers better support and communicate with their families. The site includes factsheets, stories, practical tips, and tools on a range of topics, issues and experiences relevant to teenagers. ReachOut Parents also include a free Parents discussion forum, for parental peer support.
Chronic Pain Australia is an organisation staffed entirely by volunteers, dedicated to reducing the social and other barriers to living with chronic pain. Their aim is to prevent Australians living with persistent pain from suffering alone or without access to resources and information which help sufferers effectively manage their pain.
Their peer-to-peer forums provide a means of support and contact with people who understand what living with chronic and persistent pain means.
MensLine is a unique dedicated service for men, providing professional support, information and referrals for men with family and relationship concerns. The service includes an online forum community, which provides a space for men’s peer support, wives and partner support and rural men’s support.
To support those recovering from the effects, Eating Disorders Victoria offer two online forums. The first provides a peer support space for those with eating disorders aged 16 and over. The forum is open 24/7, but new posts are reviewed and approved by the voluntary moderation team before becoming visible.
The second forum space, in partnership with SANE Australia, provides a moderated forum for people who care for a person with an eating disorder.
The Freedom Centre aims to provide a safe online space for Australia’s LGBT+ youth to manage their mental health. The FC Forum provides the ability to “talk to people who have similar experiences with sexuality, sex and gender to yours.”
The forums invite users to ask questions, vent frustrations, and share opinions about gender, sexuality and self-esteem.
Online mental health communities and mental health counselling services available in Australia are also supplemented by crisis support and suicide counselling for those at risk of self-harm provided by:
Suicide Call Back Service
1300 659 467
For those in need of immediate medical assistance, please call 000.
We'd love to hear what you have to say in the comments belowComment & Discuss