Tag Archives: Online Support

Moderating real time support chat with TheSite community

What does moderating real time support chat online for 10 – 25 young community members involve?

thesite.org

Support chat

Every other Sunday I moderate support chat on TheSite.org. TheSite runs a number of types offostress meet the moderator chat – I’ve also been an expert for their recent Mindfulness chat. I used to do moderation as part of my role as Advice and Training Manager at YouthNet – but since leaving I have continued in a volunteer capacity.

Support chat is the most common type of chat. For two hours, four evenings a week, the chat room is open for anyone to sign into. Usually it’s community members who come along (young people who are regular chat and discussion forum users) but sometimes it’s a gateway for new people to discover TheSite’s support service. Chatting in real time helps to strengthen the community who gather around the discussion forums. And sometimes regular forum users come into chat under a different name to discuss a more confidential issue.

Support chat is a group peer support space. It allows young people to chat in real time about their difficulties, get peer support from others and give people the benefit of their own experiences and suggestions. Sometimes it is a space for chat and distraction.

It’s a non judgmental and safe space. It is the role of the moderator to keep it that way – even when it gets very busy. Sometimes the chat transcripts can run to 80-100 pages when downloaded into Word. That’s a lot of support for an evening. In general there is a strong focus on managing mental health and wellbeing, although lots of other topics come up too. These can include friendships, relationships, self harm, accessing health services, school and college, online dating, bereavement, music and X Factor (to name a few!).

A moderator’s role

As a moderator I will be ensuring that everybody in the chat gets support and noone is ignored. This can involve offering suggestions and signposts or encouraging others to offer peer support. I am not there as a counsellor and would never diagnose or tell someone what they should do. Instead I am there to facilitate peer support, to give young people the space to talk and help them decide what courses of action are right for them. Continue reading

Online peer support training with Action on Postpartum Psychosis

Running a training day for volunteers working on a new online peer support service for APP

I was really pleased to be asked to help out with APP’s new online peer support programme.Action on Post Partum Psychosis logo

APP has been funded to provide peer support to women with postpartum psychosis and their partners. They have been running an online forum for over a year and are now looking to expand their offering to one to one email peer support. Women with lived experience of PP will be trained to offer email support to women who are in the early stages of recovery.

Benefits of online peer support

One of the real benefits of online peer support is the fact that people are able to find, connect and talk to people with experiences similar to theirs from all over the country, or indeed the world. It’s reassuring to find out you are not alone and helpful to hear how others coped in similar situations.

This is particularly relevant with postpartum psychosis. Many women may not know anyone else in their area that has experienced it. Often, even if there were someone, that person may not feel comfortable talking openly about it. This service will enable women to find support and reassurance from someone who knows what they are going through.

It also sounds as though many men whose partners get PP have no idea where to turn. They often try and support their partner in hospital alongside holding down their job and caring for other children. They often feel they need to be the ‘strong’ one – and disregard their own emotional needs. While the one to one support is not yet available to them; partners looking for support regularly use the forum.

Peer support in the training room

Like the Elefriends mental health community meet up, there was a lot of peer support in the training room. Unlike the Elefriends meet up, many of these women had never met someone who had experienced PP face to face before. This gave the whole day a really moving and inspirational feel. Continue reading

Wilderness, jungle or ecosystem? Does the language often used to talk about ‘online’ encourage unhelpful assumptions and distinctions?

The power of language

Language is a powerful tool. I’ve written before about the value of metaphor in mental health tweetsupport and how it can reframe and change perception as well as helping people understand subjective experience. Language is also a tricky thing – the way we frame things in words can influence how we think about them and what assumptions we make about what they describe.

‘Young People in the Internet Wilderness: A Psychological Time-Bomb?

I found myself thinking a lot about language last week while at a joint Young Minds and ACAMH conference. Since appearing in my inbox, the title of the conference had intrigued me. It was called ‘Young People in the Internet Wilderness: A Psychological Time-Bomb? What CAMH professionals and service providers need to know to respond effectively’. The language used seemed to convey quite a negative view of how young people experience online spaces and I was interested to see whether this was a realistic interpretation of the conference organisers viewpoint, or just a catchy title to draw people in. As a massive advocate of online peer support, I also wondered why a workshop on the subject was called ‘Why online support is so popular and why it isn’t always bad’. Why not call it ‘The increasing popularity and benefits of online support’?. Continue reading

The Elephant in the online community – mental health peer support for adults

Online peer support for mental health at Mind

Yesterday I attended a session run by Mind on online peer support – helping users of the eleElephant (in the room)’ community on Facebook develop their skills in supporting each other. I was interested in attending as I had been chatting to Eve, one of the trainers (and ‘Elephant handlers’) on Twitter. The work they are doing has lots of links to similar work I am doing – and developing – at YouthNet on TheSite.org.

I was also interested from a more personal angle. I was hoping to find out more about the peer support services for mental health which are offered, not just to young people, but to everyone. I’ve certainly found that in writing about my own experiences with mental health, others have come forward to share their experiences and discuss the issues with me. I’m impressed by the strategic objective of Mind to give everyone access to peer support, on or offline, by 2016. The session itself only highlighted the value of peer support, with everyone sharing their stories and offering new perspectives and ideas to each other throughout the training day. It was also interesting that there was a strong sense in the room that, while young people tend to be well served, there is not enough emotional support online for mental health for adults. Continue reading

Writing my mind – some thoughts about the benefits and impacts of public and private journalling

Childhood diaries

I’ve always used writing to know and to guide my mind in one way or another. Usually, this haswriting taken the form of a diary or journal. In thinking about the part that writing has played in managing my mind, I had an interesting evening going through my old diaries and notebooks. The entries were initially quite amusing and nothing but a day by day record of what went on.

‘’Today Richard got his new high chair it was white with blue stripes and the seat dad got was the same pattern with frills round the edge and mum said she didn’t like it.  Me and Paul might be able to have the box” (3rd Feb 1992)

 

“I dumped Simon today. He practically ignored me all the time. I did it nicely. I haven’t seen him since I did as he is in a different technology group. Had lots of fun second lesson of technology”(28th March 1996)

However, it wasn’t long until they became more difficult to read. This still one causes me pain, and shame at how I treated my parents when I was down.

“Mum says if I treated my friends like I treated my family, I wouldn’t have any. Why do I have such twisted anger and tension in me I have to take it out on people and get in moods” (1999)

Continue reading

Giving help that makes a difference – the subtleties of emotional support online

A question of jealousy

Take a look at this relationships question about jealousy:

“I’m always worried my boyfriend is going to cheat on me when he’s out with his friends. I’m always texting him when he’s out and it annoys him but I have no confidence that he won’t cheat. We live together and have been together for nearly two years. I can’t help thinking ‘what if?’ even tho he says he has never cheated. I can just imagine that in the future he’ll decide he’s had enough and I will lose him. I really don’t want that. I’m pushing him away, I don’t want to but I am. Help me.”

How would you go about writing an answer?

Photo by Alyssa L Miller 

Photo by Alyssa L Miller

 

At the moment, I’m thinking a lot about the skills needed for peer support online – whether that be in mental health, relationships or other areas of support. You can have a look at a slideshow I did at a conference in Antwerp about using the web to provide peer support for emotional health and wellbeing here. Continue reading

The role of stories and writing in support for young people.

True stories online

TheSite.org has published editorialised true stories for years. These stories enabled us to give atrue-stories more personal angle to some of the issues we were addressing in articles, and to cover other more ‘newsy’ issues. The range of stories reflects the range of issues addressed on TheSite.org, from selling sex or coming off heroin to taking part in the student protests or waiting for a new heart. For the people involved, it is a chance to share or celebrate their experiences, perhaps to gain some perspective and to help others understand the issue they faced.

These kind of true stories on TheSite.org fall into the remit of the editorial team. Those who want to share their experience, or those we approach, tell their story to a journalist who then writes it up in the style of TheSite.org. Interestingly, we recently did some work with Radio 1’s Sunday Surgery ‘Sexuality Night’, providing support for their listeners on the Radio 1 Facebook page. We shared a range of relevant content from TheSite.org, but it was the true stories (namely ‘How I came out as bi’ and ‘The naked truth of asexuality’) which received the most views, shares and likes. Continue reading

Overcoming barriers and taking steps to support – why we’re developing services on TheSite.org

The notion of barriers to support is a common one in information, advice and guidance, but the particular way it is informing the new Step Finder project we’re working on grew organically out of our teams work.

Personal and practical barriers

For example on the discussion boards we’ve seen questions about how to call Samaritansstepswhat actually happens when you pick up the phone? What do you say? What do they say? How do you stop yourself from panicking – or being overheard?. Similarly people have told us how they have been given the details for a walk in centre, but don’t know what to do when they get there – ‘Do I just walk in?’. Sometimes, a bad experience in the past can be a barrier – ‘Oh, I’ve tried going to my GP, they don’t help’ or even ‘I’m scared of the receptionist at the surgery’. Lack of self esteem or confidence can really affect someones ability to follow the guidance or signposting they are given – ‘I’ve got the information on how to get help, but I’m too shy to actually talk to anyone’. The barriers individuals face are often very personal to their situation. Continue reading

Using the web to provide peer support for emotional health and wellbeing

This is a write up of my thoughts, experience and findings from the In Petto conference  ‘Exploring Online Peer to Peer Support’ in Antwerp. I attended this, along with a volunteer peer advisor last November.

Structures and systems for providing online peer support.

At the conference we were focusing in more depth on peer support and how this could be given online.  Before giving our own workshop, we heard from a range of other organisations, each with quite different ways of offering peer support online. Continue reading