More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
How to Avoid the Dangers of Self-Help Websites
By Scott Davis
Thu, Dec 13 2007

Because I am ?in the business,? I spend a fair amount of time reading self-help blogs and sites. Most of these sites mean well, and their authors sincerely do want to help other people get rich, lose weight, or manage their time. Some, however, are not so good, and can present a real danger to anyone suffering from a mood disorder or mental illness.

In this article, I will talk about self-help websites, how they can benefit you in your recovery, and what pitfalls you should avoid.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
For the most part, I think that self-help websites are pretty beneficial. Some are fun to read, most have good advice, and a rare few are truly inspiring. With the explosion of the blogosphere there are now thousands of self-help sites and blogs specializing in thousands of areas, from mental health to finance, to becoming an artist, and to simply trying to survive each day. If you have a problem or you need advice, a quick Google search will turn up hundreds of people who are there to help you.

I have found that a good way to identify a good self-help site is to go and read the author?s biography. Usually, I try to see why the author started their site, and how they have linked their own lives to what they are teaching in their articles. This is particularly useful for mental health sites, because some of the best mental health sites that I have found have been written by people who have struggled through a mental illness and want to use what they have learned to help others. I also find that therapists write very good self-help sites, but I always check the bio to see if the author comes across in a genuine and honest fashion.

If a site does not have an author?s biography, I almost always move on without reading it. I feel that self-help is a very personal subject, and I am not comfortable taking advice from someone who can?t be bothered to identify themselves and talk about why they are running a self-help website.

How Self-Help Sites Can Benefit You
I think the single biggest benefit that any self-help site can offer someone who is suffering from mental illness is self-confidence. The best self-help sites are very good at teaching self confidence, and their advice is always respectful, informative, and honest. Articles that improve time-management skills, relationship skills, and (especially important to me) coping skills also help you boost your self confidence, which is a great asset in your recovery.

I am especially fond of sites that stay clear of get-rich-quick and make-friends-now articles, and instead feature articles such as Steve Pavlina?s wonderful How To Discover Your Life Purpose in About 20 Minutes. Self-help articles should be friendly, fun, and easy to follow, and Steve is a master of the art.

Another great way that self-help websites can benefit you is by teaching coping and life skills. That is the main focus of this blog. Sites that teach you how to manage your finances, or cook a meal, or even just get relaxed can be a great help in your recovery. Again, look for advice that is simple, friendly, and easy to follow.

The Dangers of Self-Help Websites
Despite their many benefits, self-help sites can be risky for people who suffer from mental illness. The biggest risk is the danger of ?buying into? a self-help doctrine or fad instead of seeking therapy or professional help. Some self-help programs are very seductive, and they can build a false sense of well-being. There are bad self-help websites out there, and they can dangerously mislead you if you are not careful.

There are a few ways that you can protect yourself, however. First, always check to see who is ?behind? the self-help site. This is where the author?s biography can be very important. Does the author come across as sincere and helpful? Do they provide a bit of their own personal history?

Second, check to see if the site is selling something. If you visit Steve Pavlina?s site, you will see that he sells or sponsors several self-help products such as The Secret. Ads and sponsorships don?t necessarily mean that a site is bad or misleading, but they do provide a good indication of whether the author might be biased. If you see a lot of articles that seem focused on one particular product and that end with ??and you should buy this book or this CD!? then the site is probably biased and you should be careful.

Third, see if the author interacts with their visitors. Good self-help websites will have a lot of back and forth between the author and readers. Read some responses and see how the author responds to suggestions and criticism. Are they honest and fair, or do they seek to discredit anyone who disagrees with them?

Fourth, check to see what the site promises to do. Does it promise to help you develop some coping or life skills, or does it promise to completely change your life? Be very skeptical of grand promises and testimonials of miraculous results. The truth is that there is no self-help ?system? that can completely change your life, make you rich, or help you lose weight. Self-improvement is hard work, so be very careful if a site is suggesting that you can make major changes in your life in ?just 15 minutes!?

Fifth, how does the site make you feel when you read it? Does it make you feel guilty, ashamed or inadequate? Some of the ?bad? self-help sites rely on making their readers feel terrible. If you find that as you read the site, you begin to feel worse, then it is probably a good idea to move on. Self-help articles should never make you feel worse about yourself. Articles that make you feel this way are probably trying to fool you into buying something.

And finally, check the site?s reputation on social networking sites such as Stumbleupon or Netscape. Read what other readers have to say about the site, and what kind of articles seem to be popular. I love using Stumbleupon to find new self-help sites because I can get an instant review of the site just by clicking the reviews button.

Self help sites can be wonderful, beneficial tools for your healing, and they can be a great source of advice, information and even comfort if you are struggling to live with a mental illness. There are some truly wonderful sites out there, run by some truly wonderful people. I owe a big part of my own recovery to advice and skills that I have learned from self-help sites and I think that they are one of the best resources available. I hope that this article will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of self-help sites and that you will find them to be as useful as I have.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
What To Do When You are Being Bullied

What To Do When You are Being Bullied
By Scott Davis
Sat, Sep 22 2007

The other day I had a terrible experience on one of the mental health forums where I am a member. A few members launched an attack on me, something that occurs all too common on any forum, but on a mental health forum they can be particularly disruptive. After I was unsuccessful in my attempts to get the members to withdraw their attack, I wrote to the forum administrators to complain.

Their response caught me off guard, to say the least:

You are known to be outspoken so you shouldn?t be surprised when you get attacked by other members. ~ name withheld

At least they got one thing right. I am definitely outspoken. I won?t reproduce my reply, but I have since been banned from the forum for ?having a bad attitude.? Well, again, they got one thing right. When it comes to bullying, I have a very bad attitude.

The ugly truth is that people who suffer from mental illness face bullying in almost every aspect of their lives. I have been bullied by doctors, pharmacists, bosses, whoever. It?s everywhere. For some reason, people with mental illness are treated as second-class citizens.

This shouldn?t be. In a society that places such an emphasis on equality and fair treatment, people with mental illness are the kids being picked last for the ballgame. In this article, I am going to talk about the various ways that you can be bullied by others, and what you can do when it happens to you.

Just Calm Down
One of the most insidious ways in which people with mental illness are bullied is by condescending and belittling comments. If you?ve ever suffered from depression, I bet you have heard comments like ?Why can?t you just cheer up?? or ?You?re just faking it.?

Yeah right. This type of bullying, which implies that having a mental illness is not much worse than having a cold, can be absolutely devastating. People who bully in this way will claim that they are just encouraging sufferers to ?snap out? of their depression, but in reality they are really using these comments to tear sufferers down. Would you tell someone who had cancer to just ?snap out of it??

If you are the victim of these types of comments, there are a few things you can do (sorry, keying their car isn?t one of them). First of all, don?t feel obligated to reply to them. Sometimes the best thing to do is just walk away, especially if you find the comments particularly hurtful or if the person seems intent on attacking you. Remember that anyone making these comments is doing so out of ignorance and they are trying to hurt you. Try not to take their statements personally.

If the person is someone you know well, tell them that you are very hurt by their comments.

Abuse makes me see red. There are people out there who seem to thrive on hurting others, and unfortunately people with mental illness make very good targets. Abuse can take many forms, from physical or sexual abuse, to much more subtle forms such as emotional or financial abuse.

If you are the victim of physical or sexual abuse, please try to contact a crisis center or law enforcement. As a past victim of both, I know how terrifying these forms of abuse can be, but it will only continue if you don?t get help. Crisis centers are very good and they will do everything they can to help you.

Emotional and financial abuse are a lot harder to detect because they can be very subtle. These types of bullies tend to be people in positions of trust like family or friends, which makes it really difficult to tell when you are being abused, and it also makes it hard to stop these types of bullies.

Emotional abuse is when another person uses emotions, usually guilt, fear and anger, to control and abuse another person. These types of bullies will do things like blame you for your own problems, (?You?re depressed because you?re so fat.?) manipulate you with threats, and attempt to control your emotions.

Like I said, this type of abuse can be really hard to detect and it can take a therapist to help you understand if you are being bullied in this way. However, sometimes there are signs that you are being emotionally abused. If you find that a person seems to be always angry with you, or if they always say things that make you feel guilty, they may be bullying you. If you think this is happening, talk to someone that you trust and see what they think. Sometimes it can help to have someone else?s opinion.

Financial abuse is a little easier to spot. These bullies use money to hurt other people. A financial abuser might try to use your financial dependence on them to bully you. This is a common way that bosses abuse their employees, especially if they know that the employee has a mental illness. Another way in which you can be financially abused is by theft, for example in cases of elder abuse family members will use a person?s mental illness as an excuse to take over their finances.

If you suspect that you are being financially abused, there are a few ways to protect yourself. First is to find someone that you trust and talk to them about what is happening. Again, like emotional abuse, sometimes it takes a second person to see what is happening. If you are being financially abused by your boss, you can speak to your human resources department or even to your local human rights organization.

Standing Up
Being bullied is a terrible experience, and it can leave you fearful and desperate. There are very few things as awful as being victimized by another person, and if you are suffering from a mental illness, being bullied just seems to add insult to injury.

However, if you do find yourself being bullied, or if you suspect that you are being bullied, take hope. Bullying is now considered to be a major social problem, and there are thousands of people working to bring it to an end. There is help out there for you if you are being made a victim.

If it does happen to you, seek help, be strong (yeah, I know) and take heart in knowing that you are not alone. Standing up to bullies is tough, but you won?t have to do it by yourself. There are people who can help you.

There is no need to live in fear of bullies. If it is happening to you, stand up and say no. It might hurt at first, but you will make it.
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