Using Digital in Mental Health Services and to manage our own Mental Health – A conversation!

Here’s a question: Can the use of digital technology including:  social media, digital applications and digital interaction help to keep us well and be used to improve mental health services?  Plenty of people think the answer is yes.

Digital technology is our latest tool – could it be that we officially in the digital era?  We now use it in so many ways;  to communicate, to discuss our problems,  to be creative,  to be political,  to advertise, to run businesses, to track progress, to share files – and the list goes on. Many of use platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype in our daily lives.

So how do we use it to do good? How do we harness its power and potentiality to aid us in improving Mental Health Services?  To help us as individuals to keep well?

In November I was invited to a day of conversations on this very topic. The day was organised by Victoria Betton who writes about it in her blog – Co-Producing Digital Mental Health.

Here’s a snippet of the conversations: 

Using digital technology as a safety net to fill in the gaps –  I chose this conversation title as I felt that there were gaps in services.  It drew interest from people including a woman from Age UK. She talked about the problem of Isolation for older people,  she was involved in a project which helped older people to connect to each other by using digital tablets.  A Student Welfare Officer talked about how disrupting the summer holiday gap is for students who attend support groups/therapy in term time.  Could digital technology provide a solution during this gap?

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(Art work created on the day by Tom @artsmindsleeds)

Could it be used to disrupt mental health services in order to provide a better experience for users of the services?  Could it also be used to provide preventative support to people? We also talked about the therapeutic value of creativity, is it a human need which we often neglect in our society?  Could digital help us to express ourselves through a different medium than language? Could it help us flourish?

Do you have any ideas?  Do you use any applications which you use to maintain your mental health or physical health?  Do you find using digital technology empowering?  Has it helped you in any way? What are your thoughts? Negative or Positive?  We’d love to hear them.

Thanks Vicky 🙂

There were many more conversations throughout the day.  If you are on Twitter and would like to know more about the day see  #DigitalMH13

If you are a designer or a  developer and have a passion for improving mental health services and would like to get involved please see #digihealthlab

Thanks Vicky 🙂

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A Mental Health Information telephone line for Leeds? A recent focus group.

A few weeks ago I attended a Research Focus Group which had the aim of establishing  whether a Mental Health Information telephone line could benefit the people of Leeds.

We met in the head office of Age UK which is in a fantastic listed building.  It also houses the lovely Arch Cafe which is described as a ‘Cafe with a Conscience. ‘  All profits go to support Age UK’s work with older people. It is a great place to go for coffee and cake!

The research room had a positive feel and was fresh and bright.  I couldn’t help but compare this favorably to institutional or clinical environments, which are often the type used for mental health services.  But this is just an aside.

Back to the Focus Group….

It was a stimulating experience and I felt valued to be part of this research.  Members included Health Professionals, members of the public and those (including myself) who had personal experience of using mental health services within Leeds.

The group took the format of a discussion.  It was friendly and insightful.  We shared many of the same views.    A consensus soon emerged that we all thought an Information Line would be an asset and a worthwhile investment in Leeds.   However many questions and concerns followed this.

The information line would not be a Support Line, would it naturally turn into one? This then led to a discussion about the lack of places to go or call when in crisis. Who would run such a line?  We thought that the person should be empathetic and have either personal experience of mental health issues, or experience through caring for a  relative or have worked in this area.  It was important to the group that the telephone line must not be harmful to the person in any way, as all intervention counts and can impact the well-being of a vulnerable person. We expressed  the desire that the person must have an appropriate sensitivity when dealing with callers, that they are aware and that they ‘get it.’

Who would run this line? The NHS? The Local Authority?  A Third Sector organisation?  Most people seemed to think the latter!

Would the telephone line be backed up by social media, text, a website?  …

And the discussion went on…

It will be interesting to find out the outcome. Will Leeds eventually have an info line for Mental Health and if so what information will this provide?

Watch this space…

The research was conducted on behalf of Volition by StopHateUK.

Thanks for reading,

Vicky 🙂