Opinion Former Article

RETHINK: Privacy concerns stop people benefitting from online health support, even at Christmas

Millions of people are missing out on readily available online support for health problems because they are overly worried about privacy, new research shows.

An online survey from mental health charity Rethink shows that most people are likely to turn first to their partner for emotional support(38%), while just under a third (31%) say they would turn to their family (31%). Only 7% of people go to their doctor for support, and just 3% say they would use the internet.

The online survey of more than 2,200 people revealed that just under four in ten British adults (39%) have used online discussion forums.
People who have never used an online discussion forum say they are put off because they don't know who they are talking to (34%), don't have the time (33%), and are worried about the privacy implications (32%).

But charity Rethink says that for some people, particularly those who find it difficult to talk about their health problems, online support can be exactly what they need, particularly over the festive period when family relationships can become fraught.

Chris Cox, Rethink's online manager, explains: "It's understandable that people turn to their partner or another family member first when they have a health problem, but the benefit of talking to others with the same condition can be irreplaceable. Doing this online lets people talk anonymously, meaning they can broach issues they might not feel able to discuss face to face.

"Getting a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can turn someone's world upside down, particularly as there are so many misconceptions about severe mental illness. But talking to someone else who has experience of living with the condition can dispel a lot of those myths and give people hope."

Rethink is encouraging people who have mental health problems to use RethinkTalk, its peer support discussion forum which has already been visited 15,000 times since it was launched in July.

One user said: "It is much easier to communicate here with people who know that you and they have a mental health problem than with other people on mainstream sites who I feel I tend to be keeping this big dark secret from."

The forum is moderated daily by trained experts, and people are signposted on to professional help, should it be appropriate.

ENDS

For more information contact the Rethink media team on 020 7840 3146 or visit www.rethinktalk.org

Notes to Editors:

1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,210 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th - 29th October 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

About Rethink:

Rethink, the leading national mental health membership charity, works to help everyone affected by severe mental illness recover a better quality of life. We help over 52,000 people each year through our services and support groups and by providing information on mental health problems. Our website receives over 500,000 visitors every year.

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