Mental health issues come up against Big White Wall

An innovative new service is helping people with mental health issues to access the help they need in a way that fits in with modern life - via a social media platform.

Combine an NHS with overstretched frontline services and the fact that three quarters of the UK access the internet on a daily basis and the answer is obvious: take the heat off our National Health Service by offering services online. For those suffering mental health issues, getting help has just got a little easier with the release of the NHS Mental Health Apps Library.

“We want to offer people the chance to use apps and digital tools routinely to help them take control of their own health care,” commented Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and pnformation at NHS England.

Amongst the apps featured is Big White Wall, which describes itself as a safe online community of people who are anxious, down or not coping. As the name suggests, the web page appears like a noticeboard. In the same way that your Facebook page will offer friends updates, birthday reminders and contacts available to chat with, Big White Wall displays options such as online forums discussing problems or offering support, tests to understand conditions and even live therapy.

Mindful of service users, the platform offers anonymity, access round the clock and is available on alternative platforms such as tablet and phone. With one in four people suffering with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, there is clearly a demand for such a service and its success rate is impressive. 95% of members reported feeling better after using the service and 80% of users self managed their issues on the platform.

Big White Wall was founded in 2007 by Jen Hyatt, who has recently been named as one of the social entrepreneurs of the year by the Schwab Foundation, a subsidiary of the World Economic Forum. She was keen to stress that Big White Wall was a complementary service that made users feel able to manage their conditions. 

“This isn’t a service that is intended to replace clinicians; rather, it allows members to embark on their own road to recovery through their phone, tablet or computer. It puts the individual in control of their own health journey, turning it from passive and alone to active and supported.”  

The way we connect with people has changed. Where once we might have picked up the phone or met a friend for a coffee if we needed a chat, the rise of social media means we’re far more likely to tweet or whatsapp.

Given the stigma surrounding the reporting of mental issues, Big White Wall has looked at the way we live now and made use of the way we communicate to forge modern support networks. The rise of online communication may have seen us all of us meeting face to face less than we should. But Big White Wall and other services in the NHS range of apps mean that we don’t have to face our problems in isolation.


Photo Credit: Andrei Niemimäki