Surfing the net for depression forums, skeptic that I am, I scroll to the last words on the page—the disclaimer: Information should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for medical advice from a health professional or doctor.
But don’t we take it for granted that talking helps? John Suler in The Psychology of Cyberspeace says, “One of the powerful advantages of cyberspace as compared to the ‘real’ world is that people with similar concerns easily can find each other and form meetings.” He points out that cyberspace encourages people to say things they might not elsewhere: “They loosen up, feel more uninhibited, express themselves more openly.”
Anonymous forums free us to chat about ourselves without fear of disapproval from family or friends. We can share secrets knowing it won’t change the way people interact with us on a daily basis. We can open up without jeopardizing the status quo.
There seems to be something about typing and sending, too. Russell A. Chapman in Exploring How Online Self-Help Groups Compares to Face-to-Face Groups says even email “promoted self-disclosure, ventilation, externalization of problems, expression of feelings, self-empowerment and provided frames of reference for clients and people in therapeutic settings.”
All that and it’s free.
Mental health forums offer depression help. Members register an anonymous user name and often create an avatar. Members can post questions or comments inviting response from others who have had similar or related experiences and some depression message boards offer an Ask-the-Doctor feature.
Mental health forums offer depression support with the added security of an administrator making sure discussions stay open and friendly. Administrators control all users and all discussions are moderated. An administrator could be a mental health professional, but that is not always the case. Moderators work under the administrators and keep an eye on the day-to-day chats, making sure depression chat rooms don’t get ugly.
Mental Health forums, like ice cream, come in a variety of flavors.
Mixed Nuts offers humor along with a lengthy list of rules. The site begins with the disclaimer and recommends other sites for those under the age of 18 as well as a specific site for self-injurers, making it clear the site is for depressed adults.
“Sometimes it helps to get your mind off of things for a while,” TTL says, “and we have plenty of ways to do that. Check out our inspirational pictures, share your art and other creative works, discuss the news, and more in the lighter side of the depression forum.”
Choosing your forum is like choosing ice cream. Sample them and see how they taste. Most offer more than chat options—articles on depression and types of depression as well as on anxiety disorders. Most provide a Frequently Asked Questions section to help navigate that particular forum.
Some sites like Depression Forum have a lot of advertising at the top of the page, which is how websites can offer services to us for free, but it’s important for users to be able to distinguish between advertising and the website. Usually if you’re asked to pay for something, it’s advertising.
Being depressed might make it more challenging to choose a forum but there is nothing to lose. Registering takes only a few seconds and if you don’t like one forum, you can choose another.