Use of Computers and Internet Among People With Severe Mental Illnesses at Peer Support Centers

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Objective: Peer support centers are an ideal setting where people with severe mental illnesses can access the Internet via computers for online health education, peer support, and behavioral treatments. The purpose of this study was to assess computer use and Internet access in peer support agencies. Method: A peer-assisted survey assessed the frequency with which consumers in all 13 New Hampshire peer support centers (n = 702) used computers to access Internet resources. During the 30-day survey period, 200 of the 702 peer support consumers (28%) responded to the survey. Results: More than 3 quarters (78.5%) of respondents had gone online to seek information in the past year. About half (49%) of respondents were interested in learning about online forums that would provide information and peer support for mental health issues. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: Peer support centers may be a useful venue for Web-based approaches to education, peer support, and intervention. Future research should assess facilitators and barriers to use of Web-based resources among people with severe mental illness in peer support centers.

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