Online patient to patient mental health support is being offered now to people living in Oxfordshire.
People undergoing treatment for mental health problems will be invited to join SHaRON – a secure, clinically-moderated online network for people experiencing difficulties.
It will be available to adults using talking therapy services TalkingSpace Plus as well as people using specialist perinatal mental health services in Oxfordshire.
The Support Hope and Recovery Online Network (SHaRON) will provide people with a secure and convenient therapeutic space to connect with other people with similar experiences as well as support from healthcare professionals. It will be available 24 hours a day from their smart phone, tablet or computer.
The SHaRON platform offers a secure environment for adults to talk about their mental health experience with others who have been through similar times, offer and receive both emotional and practical support. They will also be able to access a wealth of information which can help them in their recovery. There are also blogs and forum posts from people who have come through a period of ill health – providing users with hope for their own recovery. More than 80 per cent of people who have used SHaRON agreed it was helpful in their recovery.
People aged 18 and over will be invited to the social network by their healthcare professional. Users will be able to access conversation and information about their condition only.
SHaRON is separate to all other social media sites. Users will remain anonymous by registering their profile and then interacting as an avatar which isn’t identifiable to other users. That means people can be honest about how they are feeling.
The platform will be monitored by health professionals who will be able to moderate and step in to offer support and care if needed. The culture on the site is one of mutual support and is non-judgemental.
Dr Joanne Ryder, Head of TalkingSpace Plus, said: “We wanted a safe, secure and convenient environment for people to talk and support each other. SHaRON offers people support around the clock from people just like them who have experienced the same common health concerns. That can really help people on their road to recovery and because the site is monitored by clinicians there’s professional support should anyone need it.”
Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service team manager Caren Duley said: “We are excited to be offering our women support, sharing ideas and information on an accessible digital platform and enabling women to support other women before, during and after the birth of their child.”
SHaRON is being piloted at Oxford Health as part of the trust’s Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) programme which sees the trust spearhead the development of digital technology in mental healthcare, after being chosen as just one of seven mental health trusts to receive £5m funding as a mental health global digital exemplar.
Its introduction follows calls from patients and clinicians across the trust for a supportive social media space to explore and share their experiences safely.
SHaRON was designed by patients and clinicians at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in 2009. Oxford Health is the first trust to follow Berkshire’s lead and adopt the platform.