Manaaki Hauora clinical lead and psychiatrist David Codyre has been recognised internationally for a project using Facebook to promote mental health.
Dr Codyre received the “Q Factor” award at the recent International Forum for Quality and Safety in Healthcare in Sweden, hosted by the British Medical Journal and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
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Dr Codyre and Ko Awatea programme delivery manager Diana Dowdle attended the forum to report on the progress of Manaaki Hauora – Supporting Wellness, Ko Awatea’s initiative for people with long term conditions.
“Q-factor” is a session run at the forum to promote promising ideas and initiatives which can impact population health at a global level.
Dr Codyre submitted a pitch regarding his experience with Facebook as a platform for tapping into the power of informal peer support, and his pitch was one of four be presented to a panel of judges in front of an audience at the forum. He was unanimously voted as the winner.
Dr Codyre explains the use of Facebook as a platform for informal peer support came about as an unintended consequence of setting up a Facebook page to post extra information and links for listeners of “The Nutters Club” radio show.
The show, which began six years ago, is hosted by comedian Mike King, and Dr Codyre of East Tamaki Healthcare PHO.
“It was established to increase mental health awareness and reduce stigma, by tapping into the power of people’s stories of their journey through mental health or addiction issues and their recovery,” Dr Codyre says.
Every week the hosts interview a guest, who tells their story, and listeners then phone in seeking information or advice.
“Not infrequently we were fielding calls from people who were very distressed, struggling with severe mental health issues, at times on the verge of suicide. We would often direct callers to the Nutters Club Facebook page where further information was posted for them, but from early on other listeners began posting messages of support for the caller on the Facebook page,” Dr Codyre says.
Dr Codyre explains he and Mr King would encourage callers to ring back the following week.
“We had the repeated experience of people who had been in a very bad place the week before, calling in and obviously feeling much better and more hopeful. In exploring what had made such a difference over a week, people spoke of how helpful the support, advice, and messages of hope from other listeners were.”
Ground-rules for members of the Facebook page were set up and the page was moderated, and after 12 months an evaluation of the impact of the show and the page were conducted.
The evaluation found the majority of visitors to The Nutters Club Facebook page who have a mental health condition, found a sense of community through the page, and felt the page helped them achieve a greater sense of wellbeing.
The page typically has a reach of 400,000 to 600,000 people, but some weeks has gone over 1 million, and the show itself reaches people in dozens of countries, Dr Codyre says.
Dr Codyre told the Q-factor judges informal peer support via widely-used social media platforms such as Facebook, is an effective and low-cost intervention, not only for people with mental health and addiction issues, but potentially for people with other health issues.
Currently the team is trialling the use of informal Facebook-based peer support as part of Kia Kaha, a programme including peer support which is part of the Manaaki Hauora self-management support campaign.
Early results look promising, he says.
Noting that unstructured peer support via Facebook should be moderated, he encourages other healthcare organisations to consider its use.