Psych Central just reached an amazing milestone in our 23 years online. We’ve just passed 500 million visitors who’ve come to our site to learn more about mental illness symptoms and treatments, psychology, personality, parenting, or a relationship issue.
We’re proud of this achievement, but we also realize we have a much longer road to travel.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual suicide rate in the United States has increased 24 percent since 1999. During this same time period, the availability of mental health information and support online has increased dramatically.
We went from a few hundred mental health websites in the late 1990s to the millions of online resources that exist today, including thousands of Facebook support groups.
We now have services providing free telephone, texting, and online chat crisis services, and dozens of online therapy sites providing immediate online counseling.
Instead of more information, resources, and online support helping people, it appears that all of these resources have done little to staunch the growth of suicidal behavior.
Some research data even suggest that certain online services — such as social media — leave people feeling worse off, lonelier, and more depressed.
Our accomplishment, then, is decidedly bittersweet. While it’s amazing we’ve touched so many people’s lives, it’s also telling that we’re still not doing enough to help those most in need.
Not enough people in need seek out treatment with a psychologist or therapist. And affordability of treatment services still remains a problem in many communities throughout the country (including here in New England).
You can help your clients outside of therapy by referring them to trusted online resources, such as Psych Central (or our support groups at forums.psychcentral.com). You can also help on a more personal scale by reaching out to people with whom you’ve lost touch, or to those for whom you have special concern.
Sometimes, all it takes is to know that a single person cares in order to make a difference.
By John Grohol, Psy.D.