Does Mental Health Online Chat Make You Feel Better?

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated September 18, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It is estimated that over 43 million people in the United States have a mental health disorder, which is roughly one out of every five people. In addition, mental illness is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Between 30% and 80% of those who experience it do not get treatment, whether that treatment is in person or online. Whether it is because of money, fear, shame, or some other reason, many people do not get the help they need. There are many resources available for those experiencing mental health concerns, one of which is online chats. This can be an effective source of support for those wanting to connect with others, get advice, and retain their namelessness.

Getty/AnnaStills
Chatting Online About Mental Health Can Help You Feel Less Alone

How Online Messaging Can Help 

Many who do not seek treatment are ashamed or afraid to admit there is something wrong. They may have heard that it is "all in their head" and that they will "get over it" eventually. Such assessments can come from our family members, friends, colleagues, or even beliefs we have picked up over the years. Others may not know where to go for help because they have never had any reason to seek counseling in the past. Perhaps they live in areas in which resources are very limited.

Additionally, many do not have health insurance that covers mental health services. Even where medical insurance is accepted, one may have a high deductible or limits on areas of service. In some cases, health insurance can be virtually irrelevant when it comes to addressing mental health. 

Some mental health issues make it difficult to avail of care at all. Anxiety disorders form the most pervasive mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million people annually. Anxiety disorders, like social anxiety, and phobias, can make it inherently challenging to reach out for support or make it to a therapist’s office.

Taking advantage of online mental health chats could be a solution for these individuals—as well as anyone else who feels like they want to talk to someone during a hard time. Sometimes it helps to talk to a neutral professional about your struggles in a setting that does not involve face-to-face discussion. Other times it’s beneficial to connect with peers who are going through something like you. Online mental health chats can help your wallet and your mental well-being, and reduce the stress associated with seeking care.

Getty/AnnaStills

Safety, Shame, And Online Chats

Since one reason some people may not get treatment is due to shame, online chat rooms can be what they need. It gives them the ability to chat with other people online who have similar issues without having to see anyone in person. The option to be semi-nameless is convenient through an online chat portal where others can provide support through messages.

Sometimes, one of the most impactful symptoms of any mental illness can be the feeling of being completely alone. It can be easy to fall into cycles of thought in which an individual believes that no one else can possibly understand them and no one else has ever experienced what they are experiencing. Online mental health chats can help ease the fear and shame associated with mental illness and give people a platform in which to talk about how they’re feeling. Getting other people’s perspectives and hearing about their experiences can be valuable and provide you with a sense of relief. You may gain more insight into why you think and feel as you do. Online chat platforms serve the needs of face-to-face support groups, with the addition of allowing for more complete seclusion.

Online Chats And Input From Others

You will often receive responses to what you write in an online chat group. Therefore, this may not be the most helpful forum for someone who wants to express their feelings and vent without taking in the experiences of others in return. Further, since any support group includes others who are also struggling, it is possible to receive comments from others you may not find to be beneficial. It can be important to understand that the nature of chatrooms is to be reciprocal. Many online chat groups are monitored by professionals. If this is important to you, you should be able to confirm such details prior to joining.

There are many types of online chat groups that can provide various types of benefits. Guided chats are more likely to provide solutions to problems and new perspectives. Participants often describe them as ‘deep.’ Unguided chats, meanwhile, offer more personal connections around common experiences and might be described as ‘smooth.’ 

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo
Chatting Online About Mental Health Can Help You Feel Less Alone

What To Expect

There are many kinds of online chat websites and forums. Some of them have group chats in which you talk to a group of people about thousands of various topics to get peer support and stay connected during a difficult time. Others center around one specific topic, like anxiety. You do not have to talk if you don’t want to; you can just listen by reading others’ messages. If you do not want to talk to a large group of people, there are chat rooms in which you can speak one-on-one with a crisis counselor. In seeking individual counseling, you can avoid the social pressure that many people experience in group settings. This may also make it even more attractive to those who are struggling with shame. 

If you are in need of immediate medical attention or are having suicidal ideations, please visit or contact a crisis center, like LifelineNetwork, for emotional support. Most emergency hotlines are available 24/7 as well as free. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) is also available to provide assistance for any suicide ideations or thoughts at any time.

Chat Rooms, Forums, And Threads

Online chatrooms have an endless supply of topics on thousands of threads, almost like a menu of options. Many of them are free of charge, which is another barrier that chat rooms eliminate. Some of the thread topics and questions you may find in chat rooms include:

  • How do I know if I am depressed?

  • Am I lonely or just bored?

  • Why do I get so stressed out?

  • How can I stop feeling this way?

  • What can I do about peer pressure?

  • How do I handle a bully?

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • PTSD

  • Stress

  • Substance Abuse

Online Counseling With BetterHelp

If financial constraints are keeping you from seeking the support you need and an online chat is not serving your needs, virtual counseling options can be much more affordable than many traditional professional counseling practices. Online services like BetterHelp offer a flat subscription fee, which may allow you to get the care you need. To get started, you’ll need to fill out a short survey and ensure that you have a smart device and a stable internet connection for sessions. BetterHelp lets you chat with your therapist via videoconference, phone call, or even chat. This can make it convenient and easy to avail of mental health care.

The Efficacy Of Online Counseling 

Can a therapist really deliver treatment to someone experiencing mental illness via the internet? The answer, according to this recent study, is yes. Chat-based interventions were found to deliver the same results as face-to-face counseling. In addition, those in the experiment group reported forming stronger connections over text messages and web chats with their therapist than those in the control group. 

Counselor Reviews

“I am grateful that to have met Velma on BetterHelp. She is highly insightful, empathetic and has helped me with concrete and targeted advice. In fact, she is acutely intelligent in grasping the key issue based on just a few conversations, which helped me. She is quick to respond to messages, and she comes back with effective advice and suggestion. Based on my other experiences with therapists, this is the most effective psychological help I have had. I feel heard and understood.”

“I started my journey with Donna not knowing what it is that I needed help with or what to really expect. I was in pain, that is all I knew for certain, and I threw everything at her. That was new for me. I have had face to face counseling experiences before with two other very kind professionals and with none of them I talked as much during the first sessions as I did with Donna.  It felt super safe when talking with Donna. It is like her aura emits safety which penetrates the skepticism one might have with online counseling (it did for me).  Apart from feeling safe, her great listening and non-judgement skills kept me staying with Donna. I did think a lot about changing counselor once because I wasn't sure whether Donna could understand or help me with problems I was facing in regard to high sensitivities (HSP). However, my gut kept me away from it because of the three traits mentioned before. Till now, I have always wanted to get better very quickly (max. 1 month to get better and even that is too long), but with Donna I managed to learn with my heart slowly to let myself take time with the process of getting better. One more thing which I found amazing because I was not expecting that all, is Donna's ability to shed light on new perspectives on my deep, philosophical/complex writings. Sometimes just a short message from her on my writing makes me something new or helps me gets closer to a solution within me.”

Takeaway

There are several online resources built specifically for people struggling with their mental health. These include chatrooms, hotlines, forums, and more. Although these resources can be beneficial, they may not be enough for more severe mental health conditions and concerns. In these situations, connecting with an online counselor through sites like BetterHelp can equip you with more individualized support and care. No matter what your healing journey looks like, it can be important to get the attention and guidance you need.

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