Online peer support

Peer support that is offered using digital tools or methods. It can be in a one-to-one or group format but is delivered without there being any in person or face to face contact.

Websites and forums are sometimes moderated by either members of staff or trained volunteers but this is not always the case. Moderators will often ensure that conversations follow the group’s rules, safeguarding issues are reported and any spam is removed.

Due to the accessibility of the internet, the reach of the programme can be global but can equally be restricted to specified groups of people on a smaller scale.

Extending access to a web-based mental health intervention: who wants more, what happens to use over time, and is it helpful? Results of a concealed, randomized controlled extension study. Hensel JM, Shaw J, Ivers NM, Desveaux L, Vigod SN, Bouck Z, Onabaj

What factors influence the sustainability of online peer support?  How is this linked to usage rates and the recovery of peers?

Online support community for adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer: user statistics, evaluation. Kaal SE, Husson O, van Dartel F, Hermans K, Jansen R, Manten-Horst E, Servaes P, van de Belt TH, Engelen LJ, Prins JB, Verberne S, van der Graaf WT.

Many young Dutch people with cancer are unable to meet their peers face to face.  An online peer support community was set up to connect peer who could share and exchange their experiences.

Piloting dissemination and advocacy of peer support through social media: peers for progress recent effort and lessons learned

This report describes how one programme promoted and advocated for peer support using various types of social media. It considers whether this is a cost effective way to promote and sustain peer support services and gives learnings from the process.

Sharing and Empathy in Digital Spaces: Qualitative Study of Online Health Forums for Breast Cancer and Motor Neuron Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)

The availability of an increasing number of online health forums has altered the experience of living with a health condition, as more people are now able to connect and support one another. Empathy is an important component of peer-to-peer support, although little is known about how empathy develops and operates within online health forums.

This paper explores how empathy develops and operates within two online health forums for differing health conditions: breast cancer and motor neuron disease (MND), also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The play and film, 'A Space for Sharing' (breast cancer online health forums)

In 2016 we developed the play, 'A Space for Sharing' to convey through drama our key research findings from the research undertaken at Sheffield on online health forums (www.space4sharingstudy.org). The play is the result of collaboration between Sheffield researchers and the professional theatre company Dead Earnest, resulting in a powerful and memorable drama telling the stories of five fictional women diagnosed with breast cancer who gain support from an online health forum.

Developing peer support in the community

This toolkit was coproduced as part of Mind's 'Side by Side' project. The toolkit gives some guidance on how to better understand and communicate your impact, what the core principles of peer support mean, ways to facilitate and coordinate projects, ways to balance organisational support with independence, troubleshooting solutions to challenges, and advice for funders and comissioners.

Problem drinking and peer support in cyberspace

This resource is an evauluation of online peer support groups for alcohol addiction written by Nottingham university. The evaluation conducted a survey with people who use online groups and a qualitative analysis of over 700 messages posted in three online support groups. The evaluation investigated the percieved advantages and disadvantages of the online groups, the nature and extent to which members felt empowered, and the nature of the communication that takes place in the groups.

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