Digital Technology for Mental Health

Realist evaluation of online mental health communities to improve policy and practice

Addressing priorities 1 and 10NIHR research in progress

Online forums can be very helpful for people experiencing mental health difficulties. Some people report feeling less distressed, less alone, and more able to cope. However, others have reported feeling more distressed and less able to cope after using forums. We do not know why these differences occur. This means we do not know how to make forums better, or which ones should be offered to people seeking help. This study aims to find out: how online mental health forums work; why some work better than others; and why some people find them helpful and others do not. Based on what is found, the team will work with people who use forums; people employed to support forums; and people who set up and fund forums; to develop tools to improve the design and support from online mental health forums.