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12/2/2009
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Mental Health Social Network Launched

The online environment allows people with mental health problems, as well as their caregivers, connect in a safe and anonymous environment.

Mental Health Social launched a new social network designed to let people with mental health conditions or those interested in those conditions to connect in a comfortable online environment.

MentalHealthSocial.com is designed to allow people to share experiences anonymously, reach out to others with similar problems, and connect caregivers assisting loved ones facing mental health problems, the Naples, Fla., company said.

Colin Spencer Wood, the company president and CEO, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999.

"When people suffer from mental health conditions, they can sometimes feel isolated," Wood said in a statement. "There might not be anyone else in a patient's life that has experienced their condition, which can make it difficult for family and friends to relate or understand what they're going through. MentalHealthSocial.com eliminates those feelings of isolation by bringing people with similar experiences together. Sometimes people just need someone to talk to who really understands whatever mental health condition they're dealing with."

The service has the same major features as Facebook and other social networks. Users can share information about themselves, post videos, upload audio or photos, and offer help. It supports e-mail style messaging, instant messaging, chat, blogging, status updates, commenting, and forums, as well as free classifieds and events. Users can create private areas for peers with similar conditions.

The service will also work to raise money for mental health related nonprofit organizations.

Social networking has emerged as both a tool and a source of problems for healthcare providers. Organizations like the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and Mayo Clinic are using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to connect with med students and the communities those organizations serve. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is using Twitter, YouTube, and even games to spread information about swine flu. And Second Life has a following among healthcare providers, as Chicago Children's Hospital is using Second Life for disaster preparedness, while disabled people turn to the virtual world for peer support.

On the other hand, a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows med students often behave unprofessionally on social networks, even violating patient confidentiality.

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