Apps offer anonymous mental health support

paralignMental health is one of those issues that is so easily brushed under the carpet.  I’ve touched upon a number of interesting projects that have attempted to help matters by using social networking technology.

A couple of studies found that the web can be a powerful tool, both in allowing people to share their thoughts and feelings, and to then get feedback on them from peers who have suffered similar emotions.

The relative anonymity of the web encourages users to speak up and both solicit and offer support to those in need.

From lab to real world

One such project, which was successfully tested in the lab at MIT has now made its way into the real world via a service called Koko.

It allows users to connect up virtually and anonymously with others to thus get support from them in times of trouble.  Users post up their concerns and then the crowd hopefully provide them with real and heartfelt support.

Abuse is largely self-policed via a ratings system for the support given to each user, so a reputation system has quickly developed around the best (and worst) users.

Anonymous journaling

Another interesting new platform in this field is Paralign, which offers users access to an anonymous journal where people can record their thoughts and feelings.

This data then allows users to be paired up with other members going through similar experiences to provide some mutual support and advice.

Of course, whilst our peers may be able to empathize with our current situation, what isn’t so clear is whether they have any answers to help us improve our mental health.

Nonetheless, they are a pair of interesting apps in a vitally important area, so it will be fascinating to see how they perform.

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