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Online Peer To Peer Support: Qualitative Analysis Of UK And US Open Mental Health Facebook Groups

Julie Prescott, Amy Leigh Rathbone, Gill Brown

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Objective This research aimed to gain further understanding of how open Facebook groups are used for online peer to peer support and identify any similarities and/or differences between UK and US groups. Method A systematic search of mental health related open Facebook groups was conducted using relevant key words. The posts from 14 UK and 11 US groups were acquired over a three month period and content thematically analysed using Nvivo. Results Findings support previous research which evidences that online peer to peer support is beneficial for users seeking mental health information. Said support can increase feelings of connectedness, reduce feelings of isolation, and provide a platform for comparison of perspectives relating to personal experiences. Group membership may offer hope and increase feelings of empowerment in those using Facebook groups as a support mechanism. There was similar discourse seen throughout both UK and US posts in regards to gender inequality, lack of awareness and stigmatisation. Conclusions The study highlights the positive impact of shared personal experiences, and offers a greater understanding of the benefits of online peer to peer support for mental health and wellbeing. There is evidence that, whilst mental health is becoming a more widely discussed topic, in both the UK and US, it remains negatively perceived. Questions are posed for group administrators and health professionals relating to their utilisation and moderation of such online peer to peer support networks.