Good online forums for discussing complicated feelings and comforting others?
December 24, 2012 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Are there any particularly good, well-moderated private online communities out there for discussing personal and medical concerns in a safe space?

Ask MeFi (anonymous) has often been a great place for this. I'm wondering if there are similar communities I haven't heard about. Basically for people who are at a place in life where they need to reach out to others about personal stuff that may or may not require a professional or physician.

Anyhow, a developer friend and I were thinking about piloting a forum like this just to see if there was any interest. Privacy and non-judgmental environment would be absolutely key. It might be a healthy thing for teens especially who are feeling bullied, insecure, maybe even suicidal.

I have been on forums for this type of discussion, sort of, but they're usually subforums on a forum whose theme is actually something else. I would like this to be more focused. People who need to ask questions or get things off their chest to feel better.

Any links to similar services would be great. But also, any feedback about the concept itself. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It seems like there would be host of legal issues to navigate here; see also: frequent MetaTalks about whether medical advice by committee on AskMe is really a good thing or not, given that nothing is factchecked by professionals. Would you moderate for accuracy? Bad information can be worse than no information in many cases.

I realize you're not directly proposing questions that require doctors, but would you delete questions that do? How would you moderate threads where the only correct answer is "see a doctor" or "go to the ER"? (You can see some of my frustration with AskMe; so that this doesn't turn into a MeTa sideline, see any number of threads on the grey about this.) I'm not mentioning this to inject my opinion, just as something that you'll likely have to think about.

For the "maybe even suicidal" part: would you have moderators who have crisis helpline experience? That can be an incredibly delicate situation; here on the green, people often outsource that kind if thing to dedicated crisis lines.
posted by supercres at 10:07 PM on December 24, 2012

I'm escaping from Christmas and am nogged out, so hope this makes sense. Trust is the key. Can be established either by 1) an authority (actual or perceived) to whom expert knowledge about a range of experiences can be accredited, through personality (Dr Oz, sharecare) or legacy (Mayo Clinic) or shit-tons of money for marketing or 2) trust established organically by common experience, or the ability to appeal to a range of niches (around symptoms, orientation (orthodox vs not, etc), which is difficult to do under one or a few brands.

I think there have been a few not particularly successful attempts to monetize 1). Problematic because too many hiccups interrupt the urgency of appeal, and trust, again (registration, credit card info, lack of trust with anonymous or unfamiliar doctors).

The need for immediacy is why people went (maybe go?) to Yahoo Answers or any range of fora Google takes them to. I think people sometimes need to purge and don't care where it happens, or what it gets them.

You could maybe come up with some kind of platform that privileges access to local knowledge, but however good the product, its value would depend on relationships (e.g. partnerships with established organizations).

I think very desperate people will take whatever from wherever (witness Yahoo Answers). People who would bother to register a credit card would probably just go to a doctor or clinic.

Just my now hugely nogg-compromised HO.
posted by nelljie at 10:10 PM on December 24, 2012

Vaginapagina is a perfect example of a community that does exactly what you describe for gynecology and women's sexuality. It's exemplary, really. I hate the hysteria over medical advice here and you never see that there, plus it's extensively safe-space maintained and if someone answers a question with misinformation it's immediately corrected, usually with citations, by other members or mods.
posted by Violet Hour at 10:44 PM on December 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

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