There is no foolproof formula for successful online support. Using the written word to ensure someone feels listened to, understood, informed and positive about their next steps is a complex and varied task.
As with any inexact science it’s much easier to identify when something is done right. It’s a lot harder to teach how it is done. As a result I’m always interested in identifying and exploring in more depth what it is about successful support that makes the real difference. What is it that makes someone respond like this?
“I would just like to say thank you so much as i feel its basically saved my life. The people who reply should be so proud to be able to have that effect on someone like myself who feels there’s no way out of this hell. After receiving my reply i have now realised there is and i now have the courage to get help. Thank you so so so so so much! you’ll never know what you’ve done for me, you’ve saved my life!” (askTheSite feedback)
Earlier on this week I rediscovered a website called askphilosophers.org. It’s a question and answer service where people post questions which are answered publicly by philosophers. All the sections are pretty interesting (check out the environmental philosophy section) but particularly relevant to us who work on askTheSite was the section on love and emotions.
There was a really interesting mix of some of the sorts of questions we would get in the Relationships section of askTheSite
(‘Can a guy REALLY love you if he comments on other girls saying that they’re cute?’), to questions that took a step back and saw the issue in terms of a more general dilemma (‘If, within a marriage, one partner denies the other sex, can they morally still demand that the other refrain?’).
Where can young people ask philosophical questions?
In my previous job I was once asked a question about the meaning of life. It wasn’t phrased quite like that, but in essence that was what the question was. It went something along the lines of ‘I’m not suicidal, but I keep thinking that, when I die, my family and friends will be sad for a while, but then they will get on with their lives, and they will die and it will be as if I had never existed at all. I just don’t see the point’. The user was concerned about this question to the extent that she felt the need to write into a helpline to help her find meaning in her life. But where else could she talk about these issues? Possibly askphilosophers.org? Patrick and I were thinking about whether we should have a section in askTheSite for more general religious and philosophical questions – young people come up against these all the time but don’t really have a young person orientated forum in which to ask them. Continue reading →
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 Samaritans– what 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 →
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 →