Friday, 25 March 2011

Tutorial Six - The internet and online communities

In this post I will be looking at the topic of Mental Health and looking at three online communities that focus on this topic.  I will be looking at what services they provide, how the information is shared, whether the community is limited by geographical boundaries and of course (!) any ethical issues that need to be considered.

First it would be wise to define what an online community actually is: 

An online community is a virtual community that exists online whose members enable its existence through taking part in membership ritual. An online community can take the form of an information system where anyone can post content, such as a Bulletin board system or one where only a restricted number of people can initiate posts, such as Weblogs. Online communities have also become a supplemental form of communication between people who know each other primarily in real life (Online community, 2011).

I will be looking at the following sites:

"From its inception in 1979, NAMI has been dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness" (About Nami, 2011).  Nami's website offers information about mental illnesses, medication, education and programmes, support and online communities that are open to members.  The site is highly interactive with both access to information on a multitude of different mental health conditions and access to online communities.  The online communities offer the opportunity to members (membership is free and very easy to obtain) to join over 40 discussion groups ranging from topics concerning specific conditions like eating disorders, bipolar and PTSD.  There are discussion groups for the Spanish speaking communities and groups for carers of individuals that suffer from mental illness.  Members can contribute by joining any discussion group and posting either a new comment or replying to an existing comment or thread.  Members post their problems, provide advice or support to other members and discuss issues that are concerning them.  Below is an example of the type of topics that are discussed on this site:

                                                                   (, 2011)

This site is very similar to, again it provides specific information about mental health disorders, provides a forum for article publication and conversation between visitors to the site.  It also features blogs, videos and podcasts all of which visitors to the site can comment on.  The forum offers a place to share what is going on in the community (both physical and global) and mental health issues: the site encourages people to "Talk to others about your situation. Help others with their situations. Give and receive support" (Mental Health Net, 2010, para 3).  Again the site has categories for discussion ranging from ADHD to sexuality issues, and provides a place for visitors to place their comments and respond to others.  Again the site is highly interactive and visitors can contribute their opinions, comments and advice.  Interestingly on this site, the administrators seem to be highly visible and they readily put a 'trigger' on any comments that could cause specific offense or escalation of a other words the site is being policed and warnings are being put on content that could adversely affect people.  Below is an example of the type of conversations and subject matter that are taking place on the forums:

                                                            (Mental Help Net, 2010)!/VibeCentral

This online community is a little different because it has been set up through facebook rather than having its own website.  The organisers of the site state, "we're young adults with a creative voice that celebrates diversity and supports the contribution of all people with experience of mental illness" (Vibe, 2011).  The site appears to be more of a community message board offering advice and advertising events for 'fans' to get involved in, however because it is facebook it remains highly interactive and allows comments and responses from anyone wishing to contribute.  The group states that it is intended for young adults with any type or degree of mental illness.  Here is an example of the type of information on their facebook page:

                                                              (Vibe, 2011)

Ethics again are a major issue on these types of websites.  Sites have to ensure that individuals who sign up as members to these sites (on the understanding that they will be protected by privacy laws) have their identities protected.  On the flipside, these sites that claim they are offering support for people suffering from mental illness, need to be accountable and ensure that the content on the site and in the discussion forums is not dangerous for its members.  Mental health is a highly sensitive area that needs caution. seems to be visibly working to ensure that its members stay safe by placing warnings on content that could be deemed dangerous and by having their administrators contribute to discussion topics to ensure objectivity and some positivity is introduced into the conversations.

Online communities provide the opportunity for global interactions.  For someone sitting in New Zealand where there is plenty of mental health information sites but few online discussion forums, they are able to read comments from or join a group in America or Britain where although the geography is different the condition is still the same.  Whilst the forums I have presented are mainly English speaking, provides the opportunity for Spanish speaking communities around the world to join in and discuss their issues.  Again for someone sitting in a small community in New Zealand where their mental health condition may not be understood by those around them or they may encounter stigma because of it, a global online community offers a release where they can make contact with people that WILL understand and know what they are going through.

Of course there are downsides to these types of communities.  Individuals using these types of sites can very easily remove themselves from the community and disappear.  In mental health this would be of particular concern if an individual was only receiving support online and had isolated themselves from their geographical community.  Individuals gaining advice only from online sites are also in danger of receiving incorrect information or dangerous advice about their condition which could put them in danger of becoming more unwell or even suicidal.  To me it seems that although there is absolutely a place for online communities, traditional communities need to retain their role in offering guidance, support and treatment to people with mental health conditions.

Again that's all for now.. next post is on its way!

Reference list (2011).  About Nami.  Retrieved March 22, 2011, from (2011).  Discussion groups.  Retrieved March 22, 2011, from

Online community (2011).  Retrieved March 22, 2011, from

Mental Health Net(2010).  Forum.  Retrieved March 24, 2011, from

Vibe (2011).  Retrieved April 11, 2011, from!/VibeCentral?sk=wall

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Tutorial four and five: Video Production Sessions

So this our video..produced by Gemma, Claire, Godhelp, Cara and myself.  Our task was to choose a letter from the alphabet and video/take photos of things that actually started with that letter or things that represented that letter...can you guess what the letter is?..we sort of gave it away a bit!!

We used Windows Moviemaker to produce the film.  This entailed downloading our clips and photos onto the software and then dragging them into a storyboard.  We used tools for clipping film and special effects, and added a soundtrack to pull the whole thing together.  Enjoy! 

Youtube is one way of showing your videos or movies to the world.  It is a "popular video hosting and sharing service that was purchased by Google in 2006," and their service "lets users view and upload video files" (Karch, n.d., para 1).  In addition to viewing and uploading videos "the service lets users rate videos, add comments, and subscribe to their favourite producers" (Karch, para 1).

Video clips allow us to learn about new information and give us a visual that helps our understanding.  My first fieldwork placement was in an acute mental health environment.  The following five video clips (all of which I found on YouTube) are specifically about mental health.  They all present facts about mental health in different ways - some factual, some emotive...

(O'Neill, 2006)

This video provides facts about depression.  It is emotive through the use of pictures and the soundtrack.

(World Health Organisation, 2009)

This video has been produced by the World Health Organisation and its content is much more focussed on educating people about what mental illness is and how where you live in the world affects treatment.

(Ttcnow, 2009)

This video was produced by Comic Relief which is a British charity.  The video presents people with mental health conditions and the stigma and discrimination they have faced.

(Emrephalanx, 2009)

 I guess this is a tongue in cheek way of describing some mental health conditions...I certainly don't find it offensive and for some it will (in an extremely basic way) describe what certain mental health conditions are about.  It is certainly very popular on YouTube with nearly 238,000 views.

(CBS, 2007)

This is a very quick excerpt from an American news show talking about Children's mental health awareness day and how we all need to be more aware of the pressures children may be facing and the sometimes resultant mental health conditions. 

Raising awareness about mental health is an important thing...these videos found on YouTube show that news broadcasters, charities, organisations and individuals are all trying to do their bit by publicly releasing their messages through a digital technology medium.


CBS (2007).  Notebook: Kids' mental health [Video clip].  Retrieved March 28, 2011 from

Emrephalanx (2009).  Mental health hotline [Video clip].  Retrieved March 28, 2011 from

Karch, M. (n.d.). YouTube explained - overview of the google video sharing tool.  Retrieved May 6th, 2011 from

O'Neill, M. L. (2006).  Mental health video [Video clip]Retrieved March 28, 2011 from

Ttcnow (2009).  Comic relief support time to change film on red nose day 2009 [Video clip].  Great Britain: Author.  Retrieved March 28, 2011 from

World Health Organisation (2009).  WHO: Mental health [Video clip].  Geneva: Author.  Retrieved March 28, 2011 from

Friday, 18 March 2011

Tutorial two: Digital Imaging

So in this post I am going to be discussing digital imaging; the types of hardware and software that are available, how digital camera technology is advancing and the pros and cons to this, the ethical issues that arise from capturing and sharing images, and how OT can use these developing technologies.

A digital camera is an electronic device that captures both still and moving pictures and stores them electronically.  Pictures and video can be transferred to a computer where a number actions can be performed on it.  We may just 'store' them on the computer, print them out and put them in an album or use other information technology to process them or display them.  Flickr and Snapfish are both examples of free online services that allow us to store our photos on a database, manipulate them, display them to our friends and family, and produce copies in the form of stationery or calendars for example.  Facebook allows us to do the same.  Youtube allows us to "broadcast ourselves" and share our videos; it is also a really good research tool for example when I needed to find out what the Gower's Manouvre (Gower sign, 2007) was for another class, I went to YouTube. 

News websites (like, newspapers and television broadcasters have used words and photos for a long time to represent what is happening in the each have added when the Japan earthquake hit last week for example, I was able to 'watch' the news online.  Radio stations are using podcasts (like these ones from NewsTalk ZB (Podcast-recent, 2011) to replay live radio. Windows Moviemaker allows us to take a number of video shots and/or photos and present them as a movie, adding music and special effects if we choose (see my post Tutorial Four and Five).  Across all of these technologies it seems we are able to manipulate the photo or movie by cutting it, enhancing the colour, removing the red eye, changing colour to black and white or sepia, and so on, and so on....

I personally use a digital camera and digital video camera mainly to document my children growing up.  Because I live so far away from all my family and many of my friends, the ability to download my photos onto facebook or send a video clip through email has enabled me to keep people up to date.  The same people have been able to see my children grow up through pictures and video.

"A new technology is rarely superior to an old one in every feature"

Is this true? Yes and no, I think! We can capture more now with our digital cameras because we have the multiple tools on it to compensate for bad light..or too much light etc.  We no longer have to limit ourselves to the number of photos we take due to cost of film and developing costs.  The quality of our 'snapshots' is better and because they are digital we can transfer them electronically and share them with the world.  On the downside however we are so free and easy with our photo taking that do we actually take good shots?  Whilst we can manipulate our photos electronically, there was something magical about processing in a dark room (if we were inclined to)..or at least waiting for our developed photos to be returned before putting them in an album.  In consideration of both sides however I prefer the now rather than the then...simply for the fact that the now is on the whole cheaper and I can share my photos with my family overseas electronically rather than having to take them to the post office!

Digital photography is a great tool to use in Occupational Therapy practice.  OTs can use this technology to document progress of a client for example photographing or videoing a person's progress as they work towards better posture.  Photos or video can be used in many education sessions to demonstrate good lifting techniques for example.  Another example is the use of photo therapy.

Of course there are the ethical issues to consider.  Ownership issues are about who owns the photo..if you don't own the photo then you are not allowed to publish it.  Connected to this is informed consent; as a parent I have signed an agreement with my daughter's school that they are allowed to take photos of her and publish them on the website if appropriate..of course if I hadn't given my consent they would not be allowed to do this.

So here ends this blog...roll on the next!

Reference list

Gower sign (2007).  Retrieved March 19, 2011 from

 Podcast - recent (n.d.).  Retrieved March 19, 2011 from

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Tutorial one: Information Technology and Ethical Issues

So my first blog...I will be looking at my experiences of information technology, how occupational therapy uses IT and I will also cover the ethical issues that need to be considered relating to technological use as a medium for information distribution.

So how can we define information technology?  The Collins Concise Dictionary (1989, pp. 438) defines it as "the production, storage and communication of information using computers and microelectronics".  If I were to use my own words I would describe information technology as electrical devices that hold and communicate data.  An electrical device can include computers, cameras, music players, mobile phones etc.

Information technology today is everywhere - if I think about the types and quantity of IT equipment that I had in my home 10 years ago, things were very different.  I had no laptop, no iPod, no mySky or high definition television.  I may have had equivalents; a PC at work, a CD walkman but IT is getting much smarter and much more accessible in today's world.  I had a mobile phone 10 years ago but it could only make phone calls, send texts and store phone numbers - my current 'smart' one can take and store photos and video, play music, access the internet and organise my name a few features.  This is an interesting link because it talks about information technology in the home and "the everyday life of a household in cyberspace"(Frost, n.d.).  This household certainly contains more information technology than I could ever imagine having in my home..I'm not sure if I would allow information technology to be this common place in my home.

As technology continues to advance, the variety of and accessibility to electronic devices becomes more commonplace and, it seems, society buys into this by always needing or wanting the next cool thing.

My own experience of IT could be described as a love/boredom relationship.  I love using IT for example using my iPod when I am out walking or at the gym; using mySky so I can avoid the adverts and decide when I want to watch something; using my camera and video camera to record significant moments in my children's lives; and using the laptop and internet to access information at the click of a button.  What I don't enjoy however is how it works - I find I have no interest in needing to know what happens behind the scenes ..I just want it to work!  I would say I feel pretty comfortable using familiar and unfamiliar technology but I will really only use a device if I think I will enjoy it or it will make my life easier.

So how is IT used in Occupational Therapy practice?   Digital technology is a huge part of how people today occupy themselves - for many it is a meaningful occupation in itself - therefore according to Verdonck and Ryan (2008) "therapists need to embrace the use of mainstream technology in their quest to ensure that therapy remains current and meaningful to their clients".  In my recent fieldwork at a rest home, the staff regularly took photos of the residents when they were doing particular activities or going on special outings.  The photos were then stuck up on notice boards for the clients to see and order copies if they wanted some.  Whilst this is a very simple example of how technology can be used in practice, it was amazing to see the reaction of the clients to the photos; of how the photos prompted the memory of the clients and of how they created a focal point for social interaction.

This blog (Hamilton, 2011) is written by an OT who is obviously passionate about how technology can be used within practice and as part of intervention.  Her blog dated 2nd March 2011 talks about how a communication app for iPhone/iPad/iTouch has given two autistic children a voice.  Another use of technology which has become common in therapy is Wii.  This blog (Hinkel, 2011) explains how OTs are using Wii in falls prevention, problem solving, gross and fine motor skills to name a few.  The video below explains how Occupational Therapists are using Wii in the treatment of Parkinson's patients.

(Medical College of Georgia, 2009)

We as OT's have a world of technology to tap into which can provide either meaningful activity to individuals or tools for us to use in intervention - we just need to be a bit creative about it and embrace the revolution!!..with a little bit of caution!  I believe OTs should have a good understanding of IT and we should use it in our practice - I do also believe however that we do need to be a little cautious...we have to be careful not to become too IT focussed which could be at the expense of considering what is meaningful to our client.  If, for example our client has a hate hate relationship with technology we need to respect that.  Similarly we need to make sure technology does not limit our physical interactions with our clients and inhibit the development of therapeutic relationships.

So of course it is easy to capture a photo or take a video but it is important to consider the ethical implications of capturing, sharing and transferring of information via IT devices (eg. mobile phones) or systems (eg. internet).  "Computer ethics is a branch of practical philosophy which deals with how computing professionals should make decisions regarding professional and social conduct" (Computer ethics, 2010).  If computer ethics are not respected, privacy can be at risk.  As OTs we need to take responsibility for respecting the privacy of our clients and ensuring their safety.  This can take the form for example of ensuring we have their permission before taking their photo and creating copies; keeping their personal information safe on a secure database to avoid the risk of identity theft; and ensuring that clients who may be particularly at risk do not have easy access to inappropriate sites e.g. online gaming sites.  As we continue to introduce information technology into our practices we need to ensure that we are aware of the risks and use the appropriate safety measures.

A few more bits of terminology that are important for us to consider are intellectual property, social justice and informed consent.

"Intellectual property is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized—and the corresponding fields of law.  Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs" (Intellectual property, 2011, para. 1).   Assessements in OT practice and health in general are protected by intellectual property and copyright to ensure that they are not misused or copied.

"Social justice generally refers to the idea of creating an egalitarian society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being" (Social justice, 2010, para.1).   In occupational therapy practice every individual should be treated fairly and equally.  This also relates to information technology within the practice for example every client's information should be kept securely on a database and only be accessible to those with direct permission to view it.

"Informed consent is a phrase often used in law to indicate that the consent a person gives meets certain minimum standards. An informed consent can be said to have been given based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action" (Informed consent, 2011, para. 1).  When working with clients, OTs need to ensure that where possible their clients understand the facts, implications and consequences of any interventions, assessments, activities etc before they partake in them.  For example during my fieldwork, those people who had their photo taken (from the example above), agreed to it and understood that the photos would be shared within the rest home.

Phew..! So that is all for my first post - rather a 'meaty' one but hopefully it has given some food for thought :)

Reference List

Computer ethics (2010).  Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Frost, T. F. (n.d.). The everyday life of a household in cyberspace (Electronic version).  Information Technology. Hanks, P. (ed.). (1989).  Collins Concise Dictionary.  Glasgow: Bath Press.

Hamilton, A. (2011).  Technot by virtualot.  Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Hinkel, M. (2011). Wiihab: Rehabilitative therapy using the Wii by the Wii OT .  Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Informed consent (20100).  Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Intellectual property (2011).  Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Makins, M. (1989).  Collins concise dictionary plus.  London: HarperCollins Publishers.

Medical College of Georgia (2009).  Occupational therapists use Wii in Parkinson's study (video clip).  Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Social justice (2010).  Retrieved November 12, 2010, from

Verdonck, M. C., & Ryan, S. (2008).  Mainstream technology as an occupational therapy tool: Technophobe or technogeek?  British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(6).