Last night I ran an online training session for YouthNet’s chat moderator volunteers (I’ve written a post about what is is like to moderate real time support chat for young people here). We all joined a chat room in YouthNet’s online volunteer community for an evening session.
The focus of this chat was talking therapies – learning more about them and sharing knowledge as well as discussing how they might come up in support chats and what we, as moderators, can do to make sure the young people who come to the session get the right information.
Good practice for running a training session in a chat room
Using a chat room for training sessions enables you to have more real time discussion. It brings everyone involved in a project or role together at the same time. It’s particularly useful if those being trained are spread out around the country. Some of the things I’ve learnt from running online training chats include: Continue reading →
Just before Christmas I wrote a piece for the Guardian on why I volunteer at Christmas. It was a personal explanation of my motivation to volunteer, why I’ve continued to do so since leaving YouthNet and why it’s particularly important at Christmas.
It was one of a series on Christmas volunteering. It was the only one about online or virtual volunteering. I’m glad it was represented – I’ve managed online volunteers for many years and have seen it becoming increasingly popular, especially in support work. I wanted to explain in a bit more detail how it can have as much, if not more, impact as your more traditional face to face volunteering.
A more detailed description of what running a live support chat is actually like can be found here. Here’s some more info on the volunteer role I managed for five years – online peer advisors. If you’d like to chat support volunteering, virtual volunteering, training volunteers and giving peer support online, drop me a line.
Now I’m off to open up TheSite.org chat room for another Sunday support session.
Do you ever start something new and find yourself thinking ‘I should have been doing this for ages’? I had a very strong case of that this week as I began a new Coursera course called ‘E Learning and Digital Cultures‘ online.
Last year I watched a fascinating TED talk by Daphne Koller, one of the founders of Coursera. I could identify with a lot of the learnings she spoke about. They were similar to conclusions I had reached from the initial forays into e learning I had been making at YouthNet using Moodle. These included ideas around the improved experience online learning can provide (particularly for a range of differently abled and variably focused students), the importance of a community of learners and the potential of using peer grading to scale feedback. I wrote a blog post about these ideas and how we had been putting them into action when developing our online training in support skills at YouthNet. But at the time I didn’t explore the possibility of doing a Coursera course myself.
E Learning and Digital Cultures – a metaMOOC?
I’m lucky to have had really inspiring colleagues – and in this case it was Helen Williams (@nellsberry – also blogging about the course) who told me about this particular Coursera course. It sounded enormously interesting and relevant so I leapt on board as well. And luckily, with Coursera, it’s pretty easy to leap on board. The course is a MOOC (standing for Massive Open Online Course) which means there are literally thousands of participants. While it opens and closes at a particular time and there are deadlines for our final assignment, individuals all over the world can choose when they read, watch and comment on the weekly papers, articles and films. Continue reading →
Language is a powerful tool. I’ve written before about the value of metaphor in mental healthsupport 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 →
After a recent dinnertime debate was resolved using the internet, a friend of mine said wistfully
“Sometimes I just speculate indefinitely for old times’ sake”.
I expect that this is a sentiment that we all recognise – the way we approach what we don’t know and the way we develop our knowledge is changing.
So…tell me about your experiences of online learning?
This is a question I have not only been asking new YouthNet volunteers but also in meetings within the organisation. Initially the answer is often “erm, I haven’t had much”. But who hasn’t looked up an answer to a question on Google, or Wikipedia – or found a video on Youtube to show you how to reset your phone, cast on in knitting, or even get the info needed to help your child with their homework?
We use the web to research and learn without even thinking about it now. For the younger generation it’s expected and deeply embedded in much of the curriculum. Using the web to facilitate learning and training within YouthNet has been something I’ve been exploring over the last year or so. I’ve been developing online courses for YouthNet volunteers and for participants in a country wide Money Skills programme. Continue reading →
I recently had reason to remember a scene from my childhood – my friend Jess and I in a tent in a field, surrounded by old copies of teen magazines, reading the problem pages with a strange mix of awe and derision. There was the frisson of excitement caused by the ‘sex and relationship’ problems – aged 12 or so, the whole ‘sex thing’ was still pretty adult and mysterious in practice. This was combined with the certainty that, despite our lack of knowledge, we wouldn’t ever be so stupid as, for example our favourite, the couple we read about who used a crisp packet as a condom. The problems, not the answers were the most interesting to us, and we always turned straight to the problem pages.
Published in Bliss magazine
Last week, I was published in Bliss magazine, approached in my role as Advice and Training Manager working on TheSite.org. Not on the problem pages themselves but on a page which approached various holiday issues by posing questions “HELP! …….” and then asking various experts to answer them. Continue reading →
Last Wednesday evening I was in an old tube train, in a courtyard in Great Ormond Street, presenting a radio show which played out in rooms all over the hospital. Children could call in and request songs, or sing along – we told jokes and ran a competition to see who could do the best ‘yeehaaa’ (it was cowboy night). I volunteer with Radio Lollipop on Wednesday evenings – either on the radio, or playing up on the wards. Usually I make it along, unless I’m ill, or work runs late. Even when I’m tired and stressed and feel I would much rather go home and crash on the sofa, I know that if I make it along, I’ll feel glad I did later on, and pleased with myself for making the effort.
Finding the motivation to volunteer when you’re depressed
But there were times in my past when, despite knowing this, it wasn’t so easy to put one foot in front of the other and go where I said I would be. People with depression or anxiety will, of course, recognise the disparity between good times and those when you’re depressed in terms of what you can achieve. The difficulty is when it impacts on others. When I was in good mental health I was enthusiastic, excited and confident to try new things. I would sign up for lots of things, volunteering, new opportunities, social events. Then, when a depressive period hit, I could no longer face going – and usually beat myself up about it as a result. For some people, it’s not about having good times and bad, but simply negotiating the gap between the idea of doing something and the actuality of gaining the motivation and conquering the anxiety that leaving the house and engaging in something new involves.
Volunteering because of past difficulties with mental health/ wellbeing
The essential skills advisors and peer supporters need for giving advice, information or support online
These are some of the basic skills that supporters and advisors find useful when working online. The support offered might be one to one (email style), peer or expert support, moderating forums or moderating real time chat. Depending on the type of support being offered I’ve emphasised certain areas or added additional advanced skills to my training. This training tends to be offered to people who are taking on a specific supporter role, rather than individuals who are part of the community. With adjustments, it can also be offered to community members to help them look after themselves and get more out of their experience online. Continue reading →
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
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 →
“I’m not going to give you another prescription”
“What… but I need it.. (panics)”
“Don’t worry, I was just testing to see if you really did still need them..and I think you do”
GP in Fenham, Newcastle
“Just take them when you feel you need to” – to me aged 17.
GP in Cumbria
“So, do you want to kill yourself then?” – on a routine prescription pick up.
GP in Bow, London
“It’s important you stop taking this medication as soon as possible, we have no idea what impact it can have, especially if you start taking it when you are under 18”
GP in Fenham, Newcastle
“It’s fine for you to take it as long as you need to, even for ever”
GP in Tower Hamlets, London
“They’re not addictive”
GP in Cambridge
“You will get withdrawal symptoms”
GP in Byker, Newcastle
The above is a selection of the contradicting information and advice – as well as frankly bizarre approaches and attitudes I have experienced in the twelve years I have been seeing GPs regularly.
(2016 note – I wrote this piece in 2011 when I was just getting started blogging – but a lot of it is still relevant)
Personal and practical barriers to getting support from a GP
I’ve spent lot of time supporting young people to take the first steps to support. Their GP is usually the gatekeeper for services. A lot of young people really struggle to get the mental health support they need, facing a number of personal or practical barriers along the way. As well as support in articles, live chat and on discussion boards, one of the projects I was involved in at YouthNet (now The Mix) was crowdsourcing and discussing experiences in order to create community content to help others overcome these barriers. The project really highlighted the frustrating reality of trying to get the support you need from local health services. Continue reading →