Elefriends: Mental Health Social Network
Elefriends is a social network founded and managed by the mental health charity Mind to offer an online support system where people who are experiencing mental health problems can join together to help one another. Elefriends is monitored by the site’s elephant persona ‘The Ele’ and his ‘handlers’ who ensure that the network remains a safe and supportive environment. They can respond to questions or offer help Monday-Thursday from 10am to 10pm, Friday from 10am to 11pm, and Saturday/Sunday from 10am to 2pm, and 5pm to 10pm.
Upon signing up to the site (which can be done easily and quickly through Facebook), you receive a welcome message from The Elephant himself with some suggestions on how to get started, such as uploading a profile picture or posting a comment. When you click on your username, i t takes you to your profile where there is a handy ‘What To Do Next’ list to further assist you in settling in.
There is a list of House Rules which details how members of the site (known as Elefriends) should behave, including what kinds of things should and shouldn’t be posted in order to keep the community safe. It also tells members how to help other Elefriends, and reminds them to look after their own mental health, which I think is a nice touch.
Elefriends has a Facebook-esque layout. You can post how you are feeling on the Activity Feed for other Elefriends to ‘like’, comment, ‘pin’, or indicate that they are thinking of you. There is a notifications button identical to that used on Facebook where you can see new activity on posts you have commented on, as well as your own posts. However, I’ve found that the notifications button isn’t always accurate, so it’s worth refreshing or clicking on the notifications button every now and then to see more details. As with Facebook, each Elefriend has their own wall that you can post to, and there is also a private messaging system.
Everybody that I have encountered on the site has been very friendly and caring. Even when a complaint seems minor, Elefriends are there to offer sympathy and guidance. What’s great too is that members’ feelings are validated, which is something that doesn’t always happen in the ‘real world’. When things are particularly bad, you can talk directly to The Ele, or click on the ‘I need urgent help’ button located at the top of the page. I would definitely recommend this social network to other people who suffer from mental health issues and require extra support.