Skip to main content

Online Support: Investigating the role of public online forums in mental health

This report seeks to investigate the large amounts of mental health related discussion taking place on public online forums, and to explore the potential for the use of computational techniques to provide robust, actionable insight from these conversations to a wide audience - from healthcare professionals and policymakers to those affected by mental health issues themselves. Furthermore, this study addresses the technical and ethical challenges posed by the collection and analysis of online forum data.

The report describes the collection and analysis of one million publicly available forum posts, collected from forums related to mental health. It details investigations into a number of specific areas: an examination of posts from users asking for urgent help online, public discussion around Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and comments by mental health patients suffering from specific physical conditions. The report also includes a number of posts, paraphrased for the sake of user privacy, which illustrate the types of discourse which takes place on these forums. The methods used to conduct this analysis are described in a detailed methodological annex.

As the publisher of this work, Demos wants to encourage the circulation of our work as widely as possible while retaining the copyright. We therefore have an open access policy which enables anyone to access our content online without charge. Anyone can download, save, perform or distribute this work in any format, including translation, without written permission. This is subject to the terms of the Demoslicence found at the back of this publication.