Online mental health support
Online resources – from information to self-help programs to therapy – can be a great way to help your mental health. It’s important to find the right sort of support for you.
*Last updated: 1 September 2021
The internet can be a way to understand your mental health condition or treatment, connect with other people or access therapy. Being online can let you explore things at your own pace, at a time that suits you and with total anonymity if that’s important to you.
It’s also important to get a balance between being online and offline. Make sure you have regular time to go outside, read a book or visit a friend, for example. If you feel like being online is making you feel worse, take a break or find offline mental health support instead.
There are lots of different ways to find support online. This page looks at:
- online information
- online one-to-one support
- online communities
- smartphone apps
- online self-help programs
- online therapy
Perhaps the simplest way to get help online is by visiting trustworthy websites to find out more about mental health problems, symptoms and treatment options.
Use reliable, evidence-based sources such as our A-Z pages or the NHS Every Mind Matters website. Have a look at the links on our ‘getting help with your mental health’ page or ask your GP for recommendations.
You may also find podcasts and videos helpful. The NHS has some mental wellbeing audio guides and Mind has a YouTube channel, for example.
Online one-to-one support
Sometimes it can feel easier to talk about what’s on your mind through an online chat rather than on the phone or face-to-face. The organisations listed below let you have an online conversation with a trained volunteer or counsellor in real time.
- If you’re a young person, you can contact Childline (for people under 18) or The Mix (for people under 25).
- If you’re LGBT+, contact Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline to talk to an LGBT+ volunteer. If you’re experiencing domestic abuse, you can use Galop’s webchat service.
- If you’re affected by an eating disorder, you can talk to a Beat advisor.
- CALM offers a webchat service for anyone feeling down who needs to talk.
- My Black Dog is a peer support chat service for people with mental health difficulties.
Posting on online forums can connect you to support and advice from other people who understand what you’re going through. You could join:
- Beat’s message boards for people with an eating disorder and those who support them
- Bipolar UK’s eCommunity
- Childline’s message boards
- SANE’s support forum
- Side by Side, Mind’s online community.
All these forums are moderated, meaning a team will check all posts to keep the community safe and stop harmful messages being shared.
If you have a smartphone, apps can help you manage your mental health. They can provide information, tips, games, exercises and self-help, for example.
You can download apps from app stores such as the Apple App Store and Google Play. Make sure the app is genuine and secure, especially before entering any personal information or paying to use it. Check the reviews in the app store: a real app will likely have hundreds of positive reviews.
The NHS has a list of mental health-related apps. They have assessed these to check they meet certain standards of safety, data protection and useability.
Online self-help programs
It can be convenient way to have therapy if you don’t have a lot of time, can’t access face-to-face therapy, or want help that’s totally anonymous. It can also be a good way to try out CBT and see if it’s right for you. However if you don’t have a lot of energy or motivation, it might not be what you need.
Some areas offer guided self-help, where you go through the course with some telephone or email support from a therapist.
Online therapy is a chance to talk to a counsellor online via a video call. It’s also known as e-therapy, internet counselling or remote counselling. Sessions work in the normal way except instead of going to a counselling room, you see your counsellor via your laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
If you want online therapy, talk to your GP or self-refer to your local psychological therapies service to see if it’s available on the NHS. You can also find private therapists who offer an online service.
Is online support right for me?
Some reasons why online mental health support might be right for you include:
- lack of time – websites and apps are always available, meaning you can get help as and when you have time. Online therapy means you don’t have to spend time travelling to see a counsellor or worrying about traffic or train cancellations
- physical barriers – if you’re disabled or live somewhere remote, it might be difficult or impossible to access face-to-face services
- social anxiety or agoraphobia – if you feel too anxious to leave your home or spend time in a new environment, you might feel more comfortable talking to someone from home
- feeling shy, or worrying about being judged – even though more and more of us are getting help with our mental health, there can still be a stigma about it. Getting help online can feel more discreet and confidential.
You can also use some types of online support – such as message boards or self-help programs – if you’re on a waiting list for talking therapy.
There are also reasons why online support might not be right for you. For example:
- unreliable technology – if your wifi isn’t reliable or your laptop frequently crashes, your online chats or therapy sessions may be interrupted
- no confidential space at home – worrying about being overheard or interrupted may prevent you speaking openly to a counsellor
- not always suitable – online support isn’t right for everyone. For example, some people find online communities lonely as they don’t get the same kind of connection they do offline; online counselling isn’t always suitable for more complex mental health conditions.
Remember there are lots of ways to get support offline, whether that’s talking to a friend, speaking to your GP, exercising or finding a peer support group, for example. Our free guide How to look after your mental health has more suggestions.