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On line forums: implications for mental health nurses

Ann Mitchell (Based at the Open University, Milton Keynes, UK)
John Rowe (Based at the Open University, Milton Keynes, UK)
Sheila Counihan (Based at the Open University, Milton Keynes, UK)

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Article publication date: 14 June 2013




The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the evidence for the use of on‐line forums within education and their use in working with service users with mental health problems. The paper also outlines the key characteristics of the online facilitator. The authors propose that nurse education is well placed to develop students on‐line forum participation and moderation programme.


The authors reviewed the literature to assess the current evidence.


Much of the literature was international, mainly from Asia Pacific, the USA and Europe but there was limited research and position papers from the UK. The use of forums was discussed but there is a paucity of research, particularly in relation to the use of on‐line forums within mental health. The literature identifies and gives an insight into the complexities of using on‐line forums.

Research limitations/implications

Research limitations: this is a systematic literature review but only English language papers were consulted. Also the authors drew on their personal experiences of working with students in an on‐line learning environment to inform this paper. Implications: educators need to develop a change in attitude with regard to the use of on‐line learning. Many are used to face‐to‐face teaching and still regard it as the most stimulating and appropriate way for knowledge development. Specific collaborative and interactive skills are considered to be desirable when engaging in on‐line forums. These have to be learned by both the moderator and the students. Mental health nurses should be encouraged to perceive the skills of forum facilitation in a positive way when engaging with service users and can add to their repertoire of skills.

Practical implications

The authors suggest that more research is needed within this area on on‐line forums, with particular emphasis on how student nurses engage in on‐line forums. It is felt that nurses, given proper preparation and effective training, are well placed to carry out the role. Partnership working could be developed with universities and NHS Trusts to develop Trust's staff skills and expertise in the moderation of forums, as universities have the skills and experience. However supervision would be essential for moderators to develop appropriate pedagogic tools to facilitate what is a complex process.

Social implications

The authors suggest making better use of available technology and empowering the service user to take ownership of the way they engage with professionals.


This appears to be an area that is under researched and considering the increasing usage of social networking as a means of peer support, there is scope for this to be transferred to professional practice.



Mitchell, A., Rowe, J. and Counihan, S. (2013), "On line forums: implications for mental health nurses", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 60-65.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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