The positives and negatives of online health information
By Burton Paul, author of ‘Is It Serious? Your guide to credible health information online’, available in bookshops and online now in paperback and ebook – https://isitserious.org/
Some of us are either in lockdown, or facing an upcoming lockdown due to the rise in Covid cases. The big difference between when we first experienced lockdown and now, is that we are more aware. We have a better understanding of what to expect, we know how it felt, and we know more about the dangers. However, one thing that really hasn’t changed that much, is misinformation. It was prevalent then, and is still very present, especially within social media.
SOCIAL MEDIA ADVICE
Social media plays a big role in our lives, so it is important to understand better ways of managing the positive and negative influences. Carers in particular face so much pressure in the day to day of working, looking after vulnerable people, and more and more of us turn to social media in our down time, as a way to relax, to connect with loved ones, and replenish ourselves for the following day. So here are seven social media ‘dos and don’ts’ that can help you still enjoy the positives of being online and on social media in these challenging times:
- Don’t believe everything you read – Check and stick to credible sources.
- Think before you post. Think before you reply. Think before you share.
- Be aware of your power to influence and affect others.
- Be caring, be kind, be supportive: #Kindness.
- Staying connected on social media helps people feel less isolated.
- It’s OK to mute accounts or take a break from social media if it’s stressing you.
- If a post makes you sad or angry, then double check the source for credibility.
CREDIBLE SOURCES ONLINE
A recent study by Cornell University in the United States found that President Donald Trump was the ‘single largest driver’ of coronavirus misinformation, making the importance of identifying what is and what isn’t credible significantly important. So what are the credible sources of coronavirus information online?
Here are some of the most credible sources of coronavirus information online:
Gov.uk (https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus) – the official UK Government website with latest up-to-date information on the coronavirus.
NHS (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/) – the main NHS coronavirus page with supportive health guidance.
The World Health Organization (www.who.int) – The World Health Organisation operates globally, working with countries from all over the world providing the latest and most accurate information.
The Department of Health & Social Care (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-of-health-and-social-care) – situated within the Gov.uk website, the Department of Health & Social Care also provides latest updates and information on coronavirus.
Very importantly, if you are considering travelling abroad, here is a gov.uk link that provides up to date Foreign Travel Advice:
YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
It is essential to look after your own mental health. People working in caring professions take on a lot, especially on an emotional level, and there are a number of excellent sources of mental health support online run by established charities, some even offer a 24 hour hotline.
Here are a few worth knowing about for you or someone you care for:
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm)
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs
it most: Website: www.sane.org.uk/support
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems. Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
They also have a specific page for carers here:
• No Panic
Support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge
• Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness. Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm) Website: www.rethink.org
• Anxiety UK
Support for Anxiety diagnosis. Website: www.anxietyuk.org.uk
And there are local charities specially tailored to carers, such as
www.carersek.org.uk – an East Kent charity that provides Carers with the information and support they need, www.carerssupport.org.uk – a West Sussex charity also providing support for carers and Carer Support Wiltshire can be contacted on 0800 181 4118.
You can learn much more about credible and reliable sources of health information online, which will become even more important as the pandemic continues, at www.isitserious.org.