Monday, September 24, 2007

Online counselling and grieving

Life is full of obstacles and it is inevitable at some point most of us will face challenges in our lives that will cause us to grieve and look for others to offer support and advice. Death networking is a recent online trend where people are turning to the internet to grieve and make memorials and tributes for their loved ones. They can also meet people over the internet that are also in the same position. This in turn can help people through their grief.

This trend inspired Homepage producer and presenter Elizabeth Leong to look at how the internet can help people that are experiencing tough times in their lives.

Elizabeth talks to Roger Chappell, the manager of a company called Media-two which runs an online memorial site. Roger explained people are more comfortable expressing themselves online because it’s like writing in a diary – there’s no need to hold back.

There are also many other factors which make the internet an attractive medium – convenience is an important one because the internet is easily accessible by most people and can be accessed any time; proximity is another because people all over the globe can access the one memorial.

The Chief Executive of the Australian Counselling Association Peter Armstrong argues this point: people are going online to express themselves not because they’re more comfortable in doing so, but because of convenience. He uses Princess Diana’s death as an example: people were not able to travel across the globe to pay her a tribute, so many opted to go online to express their thoughts instead.

However Kids Help Line senior researcher Phillipa Hawke says telecommunication mediums are attractive because of the anonymity it offers users for users behind the phone and a computer. It helps people who want to talk about issues which may bring up feelings of embarrassment and/or shame – communicating through telecommunication mediums provides these people with a safer environment.

On the other hand Phillip Armstrong says people need to be mindful when they’re seeking for help online because one negative comment can have potentially shattering effects. He says someone could come in and make a remark or a comment which could send many people into crisis because it can confuse, be hurtful and cause complicated grief. However, comments made online can also be therapeutic because it can reassure someone that there are people who can understand and relate to their situation.

Phillipa Hawke also looks into the dangers of not going to an online accredited counsellor, saying seeking help from other online venues requires stepping in with caution. She says older people can take advantage of vulnerabilities in younger people and information can be misused.

Phillip Armstrong and Phillipa Hawke also discuss the pros and cons of going online over face-to-face counselling and discuss future aims and developments in this field concerning telecommunication mediums.

Services include the Kids Help Line, which is a free 24 hour telephone and online counselling service aimed at young people between the ages of 5 and 25. Lifeline 131 114 is another 24 hour crisis line offer counselling over the phone not only for the grieving and abuse/violence, mental illness, life direction, suicide related issues and, but not restricted to – loneliness.

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