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Mental wellbeing on the web

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Zoe E Breen Zoe E Breen | 11:00 UK time, Friday, 29 July 2011

The internet is awash with advice on how to become less anxious, depressed or just generally happier. People are not only looking for information about mental wellbeing but seeking help for themselves or others they care for.

There's so much choice that it's important that you only take advice from trusted sources. It's important to emphasise that there is lots of great help out there and much of it can be accessed for free or at a low cost. There are many genuine sources of information available online from the NHS, certain charities and research organisations.

However, there are others which are focussed on making profits. This might be the promise of a miracle cure, private therapy or an invitation to an expensive workshop. So it's important that you know how to spot search results that may lure you into spending effort or money unnecessarily.

The best way to find what you need is using a search engine, such as Google, to get exactly the information you are looking for.

What you need to be aware of is that some results are in fact paid for adverts. Here's how to spot them on some common search engines.

  • Google
    Results that appear at the top with a cream background are adverts. The word 'Ad' or 'Ads' is in small grey type at the top right of this box. Down the right hand column you will see more 'Ads' but on the standard background.
  • Yahoo!
    Just like Google, the ads appear in a cream panel at the top, and in a column down the right side. 
  • Bing
    Adverts are at the top displayed on pale blue panel, with further paid for listings down the right hand side.
  • Ask Jeeves
    Lists a favourite site at the top with adverts appearing in a very slightly-differently coloured panel below this and then again in another block at the bottom of the page.

Just because a search result has been paid for this does not mean that it is necessarily bad or unhelpful. For example, a charity might pay for a short campaign to attract more people to their website.

The tips above relate to almost any kind of search you might make, but are particularly pertinent to mental wellbeing as you, or the person you are supporting, may well feel vulnerable and possibly be tempted by the promise of a 'quick fix'.

Also take care with using the internet to diagnose any kind illness. Besides running the risk of scaring yourself, a medical professional is the only person who can give you a considered opinion on what ails you.

If you are looking for support or counselling, you can find a great list of resources on the BBC Health website.

Armed with this advice you are now in a good position to find the mental wellbeing sites that are relevant to you, but to get you started here are a few free resources you might like.

  • Moodscope
    This site is great for people who struggle with mood swings and enables you to monitor your mood by taking a daily 'test' - this involves rating how you feel by picking values from virtual playing cards. You can plot your mood on a graph day by day, share the graph with friends and add personal notes about how you felt when you took the test.
    You do need to sign up for an account, but the process is straight forward and it's completely free. You will also receive a short encouraging email each day.
  • Moodgym
    This tool is designed to prevent depression and was developed by a team at the Australian National University. It is based around cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which encourages people to examine the relationship between their thoughts and emotions.
    You need to register and the process in quite involved, but once you're in it's all free and you'll have access to interactive modules - it's like an online version of a self-help book.
  • BBC Emotional Health
    The BBC has a great section on emotional health including information specific to mental health conditions and wellbeing. You might to try keeping a Thought Diary or just access some really great resources on mental health disorders, coping techniques, therapy and prescription drugs.

Elsewhere on the BBC, you take part in Lab UK's Stress Test, listen to Radio 4's All in the Mind or find out how to keep your mental health safe online on the BBC Ouch! blog.

There's a wealth of resources online about mental health and wellbeing and I hope my tips help you get started in your search for help and support and help you feel less overwhelmed by how much is on offer.

Zoe is the senior producer on WebWise and has produced websites across the BBC for over ten years. Her interests include the use of social media to engage teachers and learners.

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