6 Sources of depression help online with pros and cons for each resource
I hope you'll be pleased to know that there's lots of available depression help online to be found. And I applaud your decision to look for it. It means you've decided that something needs to change. You might be here because you’re feeling depressed yourself. Or, you might be looking for help for your partner or other loved one. Either way, I really hope I can help you with your search.
What do I know?
I'm a qualified counsellor/therapist with 24 years’ experience of counselling people with mental health and relationship problems. I've worked in a wide variety of settings: doctors’ surgeries, private practice, schools, a large police service and a specialist relationship counselling organisation.
To keep things simple here, I'm going to assume that you're looking for depression help online for yourself. But, if you’re searching on behalf of someone else, it’s super easy to share this article with them so they can read it too.
Why it's such a good idea to look for depression resources
Chances are you've been suffering with depression for far too long. Maybe friends and family have started to worry about your mental health. Perhaps they’ve suggested you get some counselling. Maybe medication has come into the picture - and either you don’t want to start taking it (hooray!) or you’ve given up on it because it hasn’t worked for you. Medication as a treatment for depression is fraught with difficulties. So what other other help or depression treatments are there?
In this article, you’ll find…
- examples of free sources of depression help online
- the pros and cons of each source of help
- a brief look at professional (normally paid for) therapy
- a useful resource for connecting quickly to a qualified, online counsellor who can start helping you right away
6 sources of depression help online
A quick internet search will bring up hundreds - if not thousands - of websites geared towards helping people who are experiencing difficulties similar to yours. Much of the freely available online help for depression is offered by people who have suffered, or are suffering, from the condition themselves.
So, let’s take a look at the different kinds of sites you might come across...
1. Depression forums
An online forum is essentially a discussion space. You can read other people’s questions, comments and discussions, and you can post your own. Some forums are open, meaning you don’t need to sign up or in. Others are for members only, and you’ll need an account (usually free) to read message boards and join in.
Depression forums can be really helpful. You may be really fortunate and find like-minded people who understand what you're going through. Fellow sufferers, those who’ve recovered and other kind-hearted people freely offer their time to support people like you.
Being part of a community fulfils an essential emotional human need. By sharing your feelings and problems, and interacting with other people, you're less likely to feel alone with it all. It can be a huge relief to finally get things off your chest and talk to people who really get it.
A forum may help you at least to make a start on the road to recovery. You may also find that you’re able to offer some support to others in return. This in itself can be healing as it can help you to focus outward rather than inward.
Participating in a depression forum can be particularly useful when, for example, you're on a waiting list for help, or you have no access to or can't afford professional therapy services.
Having a specific outlet for your emotions can help reduce the pressure your partner or other loved ones may be feeling by supporting you.
- Forums are overseen by moderators who step in where necessary if people don't keep to the rules. (That’s mostly to do with the behaviour that is and isn’t tolerated). But, moderators haven’t necessarily had any particular training and are not usually professionals.
- Regardless of how hard the moderators work to keep things running smoothly, things can go awry. You might receive or read comments that are unhelpful, inflammatory or just downright abusive. Whilst commenters are only too willing to help, they could also inadvertently make matters worse for you, because they might…
... give (accidentally) unhelpful or negative advice;
... not really listen to what you’re saying, thereby not really getting your particular situation, which can make you feel even more alone and desperate;
... be argumentative or too forceful with their own opinions
... be less than empathetic in general.
- Also, forums are split up into different subjects areas. Sometimes, just running your eye over the lists with sad subjects lines can be enough to worsen your mood.
- Your request for help may not be answered, which can leave you feeling ignored and ‘not worthwhile enough’ for someone to reach out to
- Your forum participation can inadvertently keep you focused on the depression, rather than on ways to heal and move on with your life.
I do see that there's a use for forums - but only for certain people under certain circumstances. It is a decision for you to make, with care. So, if you’d like to explore this avenue of online depression help, I recommend that you start slowly and keep your eyes open. 'Lurk' for a couple of weeks to get a feel for the place. Then, if you get a good feeling from the other members and their types of chat, share just a little initially to test the waters. If all goes well, as your confidence builds, share more, and reach out for the help you need.
2. General online depression support groups, and listening and chat services
Very often, organised support groups and listening/chat services are set up and run by charities. If all of their services are free, they’ll be funded by donations - the same with any charity. Or, they might offer some paid services which allows them to subsidise others.
The biggest pro when it comes to these kinds of groups is that they may well be run by professional (licensed) counsellors or therapists. Which means, of course, that you’ll be able to access help from people who are specifically trained to help those experiencing depression. (Or other mental health difficulties, for that matter.)
Many charities are often staffed by volunteers, though, so you may find a service that connects you with a volunteer rather than a trained therapist. In this case, the pros of this kind of depression help online are similar to those listed above for forums.
Organisations that are able to offer for free the services of fully trained professionals are much harder to come by. You’re more likely to connect with a volunteer which isn’t a bad thing in itself. But, the training of volunteers isn’t necessarily very well regulated. Which means there’s a risk that under-prepared volunteers may approach the way they support others in less than helpful ways.
Also, just because the person you’re talking to may have had similar experiences to yours, that doesn’t automatically make them a good listener. In fact, some people volunteer because of the way it makes them feel, rather than with a genuine desire to help other people. So, you can’t always guarantee that you’ll find someone who puts your best interests ahead of their own!
If organisational groups (non-profit or paid) appeal to you, then have a good look around to find the ones that best suit your needs. If you choose a group that’s largely voluntary, find out if the support workers have received any training. Or, at the very least, some direction as to what precisely their role is.
3. Listening (chat) services or forums for people with specific problems and needs
Your depression may be the result of a very specific problem or set of problems you’re experiencing at the moment. So, it makes sense to seek out help that addresses those problems in particular.
There are great listening or chat services for all kinds of specific issues. To give you a very broad set of examples, there are services that are geared towards:
- Supporting carers
- Dealing with dementia
- Coping with serious childhood illness
- Managing specific (mental) health problems
- Supporting those who are struggling to conceive
- Dealing with workplace bullying
- Managing anxiety/panic disorders
The list could go on and on!
These groups offer more targeted help, either from professionals or (trained) volunteers. Because the groups deal with specific issues, these helpers are more likely to be able to relate to your distinct situation or problem. That can make it easier for you to find support and help that really resonates with how you’re feeling right now.
Cons and my recommendations
The same as for general support groups, and listening/chat services (see above).
4. Websites run by fellow sufferers
Search for depression blogs, and you’ll find plenty to read online! Many people share their stories in a bid to help others who may be fighting similar battles.
Reading about other people’s experiences can help you to feel less alone, particularly if their suffering was (or is) very similar to yours. Perhaps you’ve been feeling like there’s something dreadfully wrong with the way you are, because no-one else seems to feel like you do. If so, discovering that you’re not the odd one out can come as a huge relief. You’re not mad, bad or a failure after all!
People who’ve suffered from depression know only too well how the experience was for them. Which can potentially give them a deeper understanding of how it really feels to be depressed. Again, their words might resonate with you, and help you to feel less isolated in the darkness.
They might also have educated themselves about depression in general, including various treatments and natural remedies etc. And so you might be able to pick up useful hints, tips and advice which you can try yourself.
Websites or blogs written by individuals who aren’t trained mental health professionals will be heavily biased towards their own experiences.
How they felt, what they did and what made them get better worked for them… but it might not work for anyone else. In fact, there is the potential for their suggestions to have a negative impact on someone who’s a different kind of person to them.
By all means read as much as you want to about other people’s experiences of depression. But take care of yourself as you do so. If you find the tone too negative, that’s more likely to bring you down than help you get better! And always keep in mind that the information is (usually) given from a layman’s perspective. So don’t assume that everything you read is correct, or is what you have to do to get better yourself.
5. Websites run by qualified counsellors or therapists
That’s exactly where you are right now :-) So, with my website in mind...
As you can see, I have a number of articles on depression with tons of freely available online depression help and advice. I’m a qualified and experienced therapist, so the information I give is rooted in best practice.
Sites run by qualified counsellors can offer a wealth of practical, useful and honest information - the bulk of which is free. If you came to see me in person, I’d support you in the ways I explain right here on my site. So although it’s not a two-way conversation, professional sites can be a really useful alternative to accessing paid, in person therapy.
As I mentioned just now, websites like mine can’t create a two-way conversation. So, although there’s tons of advice that can be adapted to fit all sorts of specific situations, you’ll need to adapt the advice to fit your situation yourself. And that can sometimes be a little tricky to do when you’re feeling below par anyway.
Also, there are costs associated with running a website that offers professional advice/services. The more extensive the website, the higher the costs. Which means that founders, webmasters and editors (like me) have to build a way of earning an income into our sites. Whilst I can't vouch for other sites, I have personally and with integrity chosen and vetted very carefully the paid services and products on offer on my site.
If you’re looking for professional depression help online but can’t (or don’t want to) pay for professional advice, websites like mine can be a great resource. (Of course, I would say that! :-))
But, as with everything online, check out the author of the articles to judge for yourself how trustworthy their information is. And needless to say, you're free to ignore any option to buy promoted products or services.
If you’d prefer to connect with people who’ve experienced firsthand what you’re going through, forums or groups would be a better option for you.
6. Paid online counselling services for depression
In the past the only way you could get counselling or therapy was by visiting someone in their office. Now there are more and more sites and apps that offer online counselling. Hugely convenient, but how do you choose?
If you're thinking about getting professional depression help online, I can highly recommend Better Help. I searched long and hard before I found a professional organisation I was happy to refer my visitors to.
Better Help have professional counsellors waiting to connect with people with depression - people like you. They will match you with the right therapist according to your particular needs and preferences.
For further information on how to get online help with your depression, see my article: How to get online, professional depression advice from a qualified therapist.
Depression help online (chat, email, Skype) by way of professional counselling can be really flexible and convenient. You don’t have to travel, and it's easy to fit in with personal situations and daily life.
A professional counsellor can help you beat any anxiety and depression. He or she will guide you through grief and loss, help you with stress management and, if needed, explore treatment options for substance abuse. Their aim will be for you to recover your overall mental health. They will also refer you if you're in need of medical advice and diagnosis, or discuss any other treatment options should you wish to pursue another course of action.
If by any chance you don't really gel with your therapist, it's much less awkward to change than when you see someone in person at an agency.
The cost may, of course, be an issue if you're already struggling financially. And if you find yourself in that situation, I'm saddened not to be able to offer this service to you.
And, as with everything in the virtual world, you’ll miss out on the benefits of being physically present in the same room together, and developing a professional relationship that way.
If you’re really struggling with life right now and you can afford professional help, I absolutely recommend getting in touch with Better Help today (scroll down to the blue box for further information or see my article on depression counseling).
To build your confidence, I have a list of questions you may want to ask, if you think you may find it difficult to launch yourself into sharing your troubles...
As you can see, there really is a wealth of depression help online to explore. You'll know what type help for depression appeals to you most. Whatever help you choose - get all your questions answered first, then dip in your toe until you gain a little confidence.
You maybe plagued by doubts, but ask yourself if that’s the healthy part of you talking or if it’s the depression speaking. Applaud the first, ignore the latter! No need to fight those depressed feelings - in the face of them, simply strengthen your resolve to live life to the full again.
I wish you all the best for a speedy recovery - I know you can do it.
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