Socialization or Social Isolation?: Mental Health Community Support in the Digital Age

Socialization or Social Isolation?: Mental Health Community Support in the Digital Age

Kim Heyes
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2958-3.ch002
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This research project specifically examines the experience of online community support groups as reported by users. The project began out of concern that healthcare providers in the Global North are directing people with mental health problems to online services, without seemingly understanding the impact that this may have on the individuals. The research findings will be of particular interest to mental health practitioners and service providers in the UK and elsewhere in the Global North, and aims to influence decisions made for policies around developing new online mental health services.
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Worldwide the spending is disproportionately low on mental health (between approximately 2 and 50 USDs per capita), and the lack of financial support has resulted in cuts to services, especially public sector services that support people with mental health problems within their local communities (WHO, 2015). Others are unable to access such support, perhaps due to living arrangements, or because of the negative stigma associated with mental health (Corrigan et al., 2005; Link et al., 1999; Star, 1955). Globally, one in ten people are estimated to have a mental health issue, yet up to two thirds of these do not access any type of support services (WHO, 2015). It is of great concern that budget cuts and negative attitudes to mental health issues may lead to an increase in people isolated through lack of professional service support, so it is vital to understand the social factors that shape the way people may seek support in different formats.

The wellbeing of people with mental ill health is highly related to the experience of social isolation and the lack of social support (Corry 2008; Steptoe et al. 2013). More recently, there has been a shift in thinking when it comes to treatments with many patients (in general) taking an active role in deciding on the best method of healthcare provision for themselves (Allen et al., 2016). Brown and Calnan (2016) found that the level of trust between providers and service users was of vital importance. If trust is lost, it can exacerbate mental health issues and increase isolation (Heyes, 2017). However if trust is fostered, then the result is likely to be positive and isolation is reduced. Therefore, it is important that service users have a choice regarding their preferred method of care in order to get the best possible outcome for the individual (Allen et al., 2016; Heyes, 2017).

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