Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are among the largest contributors to ill health in the world (World Health Organization, 2017). They can impact significantly on the life of an individual and their family, but few receive the help they need (World Health Organization, 2013).
In response to barriers to seeking and accessing help, traditional ways of delivering mental health support and services are being complemented with Internet-delivered solutions (Richards, 2008). Online mental health self-help programmes are one such attempt at using the Internet and digital technology to make mental health support more widely available and easier to access for a larger number of people.
Online mental health self-help programmes are mental health apps and online programmes that people can use to improve their mental well-being and cope with a mental health problem. They include meditation apps as well as apps and online programmes that are specifically for depression, anxiety, stress, low mood, fear, worry, body image issues or eating disorders, to name the more common types of mental health apps and online programmes.
Most related studies to date have focused on the experiences of people using online mental health self-help programmes as participants in research studies (Fulford et al., 2016). The positive results of these studies have led the way and furthered the development of such online tools. At the same time, the extent and nature of their use outside of research trial settings have been less well investigated (Bauer & Moessner, 2013; Musiat & Tarrier, 2014). Little is known about the actual nature of use of online mental health self-help programmes in people’s everyday life. This research study aims to explore how online mental health self-help programmes are used by people with mental health problems in their everyday lives.
As the Internet and digital technologies are enabling novel ways of seeking and accessing help for mental health problems, many individuals are already actively engaging in online mental health resources, in a specific context ‘shaped’ by technology and its interrelations with users’ everyday lives (Lehoux et al., 2004; Livingstone, 2008). This research study also aims to explore these interrelations in order to understand what place technology has in the experience of an using online mental health self-help programme for mental health support.
If online mental health self-help programmes are to be useful and relevant to those who are expected to benefit from using them, it is crucial that we learn more about how engaging in such online tools actually plays out in people’s everyday lives. This study will provide valuable insight into existing modes of use of online mental health self-help programmes and how technology contributes to shaping those modes. Such insight will provide critical information on how people with mental health problems do or do not benefit from getting support through online mental health self-help programmes.
Bauer, S., & Moessner, M. (2013). Harnessing the power of technology for the treatment. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 46(5), 508–515.
Fulford, H., McSwiggan, L., Kroll, T., & MacGillivray, S. (2016). Exploring the use of information and communication technology by people with mood disorder: A systematic review and metasynthesis. Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health, 3(3), e30.
Lehoux, P., Saint-Arnaud, J., & Richard, L. (2004). The use of technology at home: What patient manuals say and sell vs. what patients face and fear. Sociology of Health and Illness, 26(5), 617–644.
Livingstone, S. (2008). Taking risky opportunities in youthful content creation: Teenagers’ use of social networking sites for intimacy, privacy and self-expression. New Media & Society, 10(3), 393–411.
Musiat, P., & Tarrier, N. (2014). Collateral outcomes in e-mental health: A systematic review of the evidence for added benefits of computerized cognitive behavior therapy interventions for mental health. Psychological Medicine, 44, 3137–3150.
Richards, D. (2008). “The future isn’t what it used to be”: Technology in counselling and psychotherapy. Eisteach. Retrieved from http://www.tara.tcd.ie/handle/2262/33108
World Health Organization (2017). Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates. Geneva: WHO.
World Health Organization (2013). Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020. Geneva: WHO.