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Beyond Social Media

A Cross-Sectional Survey of Other Internet and Mobile Phone Applications in a Community Psychiatry Population


Journal of Psychiatric Practice®: March 2018 - Volume 24 - Issue 2 - p 127–135
doi: 10.1097/PRA.0000000000000297

Objective: Popular media applications have been shown to benefit people with severe mental illness by facilitating communication and social support, helping patients cope with or manage symptoms, and providing a way to monitor or predict mental health states. Although many studies of technology use by individuals with severe mental illness have focused primarily on use of social media, this study provides additional information about use of Internet applications such as blogs, wikis (websites that allow collaborative editing of content and structure by users), video games, and Skype by a community psychiatry population.

Methods: All English-speaking patients attending an outpatient program during a 4-week period in 2011 (N=274) were surveyed about their technology use and demographic information; 189 patients provided demographic data and comprised the sample.

Results: Among Internet users (n=112), rates of use of message boards, wikis, Skype, role-playing games, and blogs ranged from 26.8% to 34.8%. Among mobile phone users (n=162), 41.4% used their phones to access the Internet and 25.3% used Twitter on their phones. In multivariate analysis, patients who had attended or completed college had much greater odds of accessing the Internet on mobile phones. Older patients were much less likely to access the Internet or use Twitter.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that use of several popular forms of media is not uncommon in a community psychiatry population, but that rates of use differ on the basis of age and education. As the digital divide between people with severe mental illness and the general population is lessening, further research is needed to determine how to best leverage various types of media to support mental health recovery and complement clinical care.

COLDER CARRAS: Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD

MOJTABAI and CULLEN: Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

Supported by the National Institute of Mental Health Training Grants 5T32MH014592-39 and T32MH019545-21 and the Johns Hopkins Center for Mental Health Initiatives.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Please send correspondence to: Michelle Colder Carras, PhD, Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 N. Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205 (e-mail:

Copyright © 2018 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.