Guide for online mental health services launched by ReachOut and HSE

9 Jun 2015

Technology, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in Ireland: A Good Practice Guide for mental health resources from ReachOut Ireland. Photo by Connor McKenna

With many people now using online tools to research mental health issues, ReachOut Ireland and the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention have published the first-ever good practice guide for online mental health services.

These days, when a question needs answering, we often turn to the web. The same applies to people with questions about their mental health, meaning online mental health information and support is fast-becoming an essential public service.

“The reality is that it has become a first instinct to go online for advice and support when we’re experiencing mental health difficulties, so we owe it to the Irish public to deliver services that they can trust,” said Elaine Geraghty, CEO of ReachOut Ireland.

ReachOut, an online youth mental health service, has helped thousands of young people get support during tough times through the provision of quality-assured mental health information, expert advice and personal stories.

With funding from the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention, ReachOut has spent more than two years developing Technology, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in Ireland: A Good Practice Guide. This first-of-its-kind guide is intended to help new and established organisations like ReachOut ensure the safe delivery of online mental health support.

Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) recorded more than 400 deaths by suicide in 2014, with one in three of those occurring among people under 35 years old.

Additionally, a survey of organisations working in the sector found that most online services have had to respond to very serious communications of distress online, and that 77pc of online services in Ireland have escalated communications of distress to emergency services, typically to An Garda Siochána.

In order to address this, the guide includes the latest information on data protection and privacy policies; moderation policy and crisis response guidelines. It also informs the public what to look out for when reviewing online resources.

Technology, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in Ireland: A Good Practice Guide is available for download from the ReachOut Ireland website.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.