It’s ironic that the internet often generates problems and solutions in equal measure.
The platform that gave us crowdfunding for small businesses is the same one that’s killing high street shops by facilitating tax-avoiding overseas-based ecommerce sites.
The internet has made news – and fake news – far easier to come by, giving everyone a voice while simultaneously allowing us to present opinions as facts.
And while Governments try to censor internet access for their citizens, Dark Web platforms provide fertile territory for whistleblowers, pro-democracy dissidents and journalists.
Then we come to the thorny – yet increasingly open – topic of mental health…
Once a ladder, now a crutch
Once upon a time, mental health was regarded as a shameful secret.
Mental illness was alluded to and spoken about in euphemisms, to hide the realities of conditions like anxiety and schizophrenia.
The internet initially threatened to break this wall of silence by introducing blogs and social media platforms, giving everyone an equal voice – and a welcome degree of anonymity.
But then the trolls, cyberbullies and bigots seized upon this anonymity, adding a downside to what could otherwise have been a glorious window of opportunity.
Nonetheless, online mental health resources are now widely available for people with the full gamut of conditions and disorders.
While we await a forthcoming round of crowdfunded wearables, capable of flagging up rising stress and predicting imminent autism meltdowns, these resources may be of value:
Websites There are thousands of websites dedicated to online mental health resources, from local NHS Trusts to global charities focused on specific conditions.
Mind has one of the best-known sites, though the Rethink Mental Illness website is also packed with prevention and support material.
People looking to make positive changes can find inspiration on the Active For Life directory of activity and sporting groups, or complete courses via support network Living Life.
Forums and blogs Sometimes, the greatest solace comes from knowing you’re not alone.
The principles underpinning the Samaritans have been harnessed by moderated blogs on the SANE, Beyond Blue, Psych Central and Time to Change websites (among many others).
There are also supportive forums on The Mighty, a blogging platform encouraging people to share their issues with a sympathetic international audience.
Apps Often dovetailing with wearable devices, apps are a frontline for online mental health resources. They’re always available, and easy to dip into when needed.
Some offer personalised therapy for people unable or unwilling to see psychologists. Others use CBT and Acceptance Commitment Therapy to de-escalate flashpoints or flare-ups.
Apps like One You Couch to 5K demonstrate how physical activity is a key driver of good mental health, while the Freeletics fitness app has been downloaded over ten million times.
Podcasts and newsletters Again, this is an area the NHS excels in. Their Choices Website contains a series of podcasts tackling unhelpful thinking, anxiety, etc.
The Mental Health Foundation publishes a monthly newsletter, complementing extensive free-to-download publications. The Samaritans regularly publish their own e-newsletter, too.
Meanwhile, Bryony Gordon’s 2017 interview with Prince Harry for her Mad World podcast arguably did more than anything else to tackle the stigma surrounding depression.
Social media Whether you regard social media as a source of mental angst or a solution to it, certain platforms are teeming with advice and support.
The team behind Happiful magazine has a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter, and Reddit has 112,000 members in its r/mentalhealth subreddit.
Hashtags are also useful. The #mentalhealthawareness tag on Instagram has appeared in 5.3 million posts, while a variety of tweets tagged #mentalhealth are published every minute.
Videos As the world’s second-largest search engine (behind parent company Google), it would be remiss to leave YouTube off any list of resources.
Featuring everything from animations to interviews, this is a key source of advice and support. Many charities and support groups have dedicated YouTube channels.
The World Health Organization and Mental Health Channel also host polished, informative videos which can be watched anonymously, respecting the individual’s right to privacy.