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YouTube can be a Source of Peer Support for the Mentally Ill

Update Date: Oct 18, 2014 12:23 PM EDT

YouTube is a website that allows people to connect with one another. In a new study, researchers from Dartmouth University set out to examine how YouTube can be beneficial. The team reported that the social media website can be therapeutic for people suffering from severe mental illness.

"What we found most surprising about our findings was that people with severe mental illness were so open about their illness experiences on a public social media website like YouTube," said lead author John Naslund, A PhD student in health policy at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice. "We saw that people with severe mental illness did not appear to be concerned about the risks of openly sharing their personal illness experiences because they really wanted to help others with similar mental health problems."

For this study, the team utilized online ethnography to examine a total of 3,044 comments that were made on 19 videos. They grouped the comments based on theme. The creators of the videos identified themselves as suffering from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder.

The researchers concluded that people with severe mental illness felt less lonely when they used the website. They also felt more hope and support from the online community when they shared their stories and personal ways of coping. The YouTube users also listened and took advice from other users who were dealing with similar mental health issues. The researchers concluded that for these users, YouTube became a source of peer support.

"What is also important is that our findings are consistent with how peer support is viewed in mental health research and practice, which suggests that YouTube or other social media websites might help to extend the reach of informal peer support activities between people with severe mental illness," Naslund said according to the university's news release.

The study, "Naturally Occurring Peer Support through Social Media: The Experiences of Individuals with Severe Mental Illness Using YouTube," was published in PLOS ONE.

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