Does Mental Health Online Chat Make You Feel Better?
By: Nicole Beasley
Updated June 03, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
It is estimated that over 43 million people in the United States have a mental health disorder. That is one out of every five people. In addition, mental illness is the leading cause of disability worldwide and between 30% and 80% do not get treatment. Whether it is because of money, fear, shame, or some other reason; many people, including those in the healthcare industry, just do not get the help they need.
Why People Do Not Get Treatment
Many people who do not seek treatment are ashamed or afraid to admit there is something really wrong with them. They may have heard that it is "all in their head" and that they will "get over it" eventually. Sometimes such assessments come from our families of origin, friends, colleagues, or even beliefs we have picked up over the years from sources we may not have realized. Others may not know where to go for help, simply as a result of not having had any reason to seek counseling in the past; or perhaps because they live in areas in which resources are very limited. And, of course, many do not have health insurance, or insurance which covers mental health services. Even where medical insurance is accepted, one may have a high deductible, or limits on areas of service. This makes the insurance virtually irrelevant to you. Anxiety Disorders are the most pervasive mental health disorders in the United States, affecting 40 million people annually. There are many types of anxiety disorders and specific phobias that make it difficult to access care. These specific mental health issues increase the inherent difficulty in accessing appropriate, professional, mental health services.
Mental health online chat just might be a perfect solution for these individuals as well as anyone else who feels like they want to talk to someone. Sometimes it helps to talk to an anonymous person or professional about your struggles without the fear of a face to face meeting.
How Mental Health Online Chat Can Help
Because one reason some people may not get treatment is due to shame, online chat can be exactly what they need. It helps them be able to chat with other people online that have similar issues without actually having to see anyone. The option to be semi-anonymous is only possible through an online chat portal.
It can ease the fear or shame and give people a platform they can use to talk about how they are feeling. Feeling like you are alone and have nobody with whom to talk is common in those with mental disorders and online chat is a wonderful solution. Sometimes one of the most impactful aspects of their illness for persons struggling with mental health issues, is the sense that they are completely alone; that no one else can possibly understand; and no one else has ever experienced what they are experiencing. It can be quite surprising how beneficial just having one's experiences 'normalized' can be. Support Groups of any variety perhaps meet this need better than any other forum. If you need to know you are not alone, seeking a support group may be very important for you. Online Chat platforms serve the needs of face to face support groups, with the addition of allowing for more complete privacy, if that is also important to you.
Many times, just talking about your experiences can be cathartic, providing a sense of relief and release, that helps you better understand your thoughts and feelings. This, then, can sometimes lead to better opportunity to process through those thoughts and feelings, creating the possibility of letting some of them go. Online Chat Groups can be a great source for such opportunities. So if you need something more than writing in your own, private, journal, considering an Online Chat Group could be just what you need.
You will receive responses to what you write in an Online Chat Group, so this is not the best forum for someone who only want to express or vent, without receiving response of any kind. 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 helpful. So you want to understand that the nature of 'Chats' 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, which provide various types of benefits. Guided chats are more likely to provide solutions to problems and new perspectives, and are perceived as "deep" by participants; while unguided chats offer more personal connections around shared experiences and might be described as "smooth."
What to Expect
There are many online mental health chat websites of all different kinds. Some of them have group chats in which you talk to a group of people about thousands of various topics. You do not even have to talk if you do not want to; you can just listen. If you do not want to talk to a large group of people, there are chat rooms in which you can just talk to a professional listener or therapist. It is usually anonymous, so you do not have to use your real name. This makes it even more attractive to those who are struggling with shame.
Chat Rooms, Forums, and Threads
Online mental health chat has an endless supply of topics on thousands of threads in forums or chat rooms. Many of them are free of charge, which is another barrier that chat rooms eliminate. Some of the thread topics 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?
It Helps to Talk
One of the hardest things to do sometimes is to talk about your feelings, and being able to communicate with others who are similar to you makes it much easier. Don't wait another day to seek the support you need. There are simply too many options available now, in this digital age, to not have at least the anonymous benefit of being able to share your experiences with others who need something similar (which is evidenced by them being in the same chat room as you). While you may find that an online chat service does not meet all your mental health needs, it can be a start; and experiencing the ability to share in such an environment might encourage you to take the next one, to seek more direct, professional counseling services.
Additional Types of Online Mental Health Services
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 the vast majority of more traditional professional counseling practices. The current average rate for an individual mental health counseling session varies between $150 and $250 USD, depending on your location, and the credentials of your provider. Online services, like BetterHelp, offer a flat subscription fee which is incredibly reasonable by comparison. The variety of methods of interaction with your online counselor are also greater, and more convenient than through most other venues.
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