The lead up to Christmas can be a stressful and anxious time, particularly for those dealing with loneliness, family relationship problems or financial hardship.
Since November, there has been a spike in the number of people visiting the Beyond Blue online forums to seek support or information, join conversations, or learn holiday coping strategies.
The forums are places for people to talk freely, safely and anonymously about how they’re feeling. All posts are monitored by a team of moderators and 18 “community champions” – who have been affected by depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicide.
More than 70,000 people turn to Beyond Blue's online forums every month – a 33 per cent increase over the previous year – with December on track to be a record-breaking month.
In response, a new online ‘chill-out lounge’ forum discussion has been opened for anyone seeking support or virtual companionship over the Christmas/New Year holiday period.
Hall & Partners Open Mind research reveals the majority of forum participants (85 per cent) have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or another mental health condition. Just over a quarter (26 per cent) report that they first visited the forums because they felt suicidal and wanted support.
However, there is a significant improvement in people’s symptoms after using the Beyond Blue online forums, with 56 per cent describing themselves as ‘less depressed’ and 60 per cent as ‘less anxious’.
One forum user said using the forums saved them from self-harming on several occasions.
“I have had some severe depression issues and I can honestly say that having access to the forums, even by seeing what others are going through, has saved my life on at least three separate occasions.”
Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said the results show the value of peer support in being able to reach out and talk to someone who understands what you’re going through.
“People might need support in the middle of the night when their GP isn’t available or they don’t want to discuss how they’re feeling with a partner or friend,” Ms Harman said. “The online forums can offer hope, empowerment, and ideas about what works for them.”
Read more about the results of the Beyond Blue online forums research