Supporting personal preferences and different levels of need in online help-seeking: a comparative study of help-seeking technologies for mental health
The Internet offers help-seekers an abundance of resources that can potentially support their mental health. However, people often have trouble in finding personally relevant resources. Very few specialized mental health help-seeking technologies currently address this need. Instead, help-seeking typically begins with a known website or web-search. To understand how help-seeking technologies could be better designed, we conducted a study comparing existing technologies with two novel help-seeking prototypes. These prototypes were informed by empirically grounded design recommendations, which emphasize the need for connectedness, accessible and creditable information, personalization, and immediacy. Findings show that the resources recommended by current technologies are often experienced as ‘overwhelming’ or ‘overly-medicalized’. The prototypes successfully improved connectedness, immediacy, and personalization, but were less successful in their ability to support symptom-based help-seeking. Based on our findings we contribute recommendations for integrated help-seeking technologies, which can guide people to mental health resources appropriate to both their personal preferences and current level of need.