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E-Resources By Consumers - For Consumers
After discovering a lack of web resources available to those battling severe mental illnesses, the dynamic duo of Sean Bennick and Derek Wood, RN, BSN, set out to change the Internet landscape – and indeed they have. Today, their teamwork is responsible for such informational web sites as, www.mental-health-matters.com, www.psychforums.com and www.getmentalhelp.com.
With Bennick serving as Vice President and Wood the Clinical Content Director, www.mental-health-matters.com is the most comprehensive mental health web site owned and operated by consumers. It provides wide-ranging resources about mental health issues including detailed technical briefs on disorders, symptoms and treatment modes. Bennick and Wood’s original vision for the site was to provide consumers with the complete resources necessary to make informed decisions about how to achieve optimal mental health. In order to attain this goal, they are constantly adding new information – articles, studies, and listings of community resources. “Today the site serves approximately 275,000 unique visitors each month, its growth is phenomenal. In fact, in the last two months alone the number of visitors has doubled,” remarked Bennick.
The initial launch of the web sites date back to 2001, when Bennick, a graphic designer by trade, set out to fill the void he discovered when researching his own mental health issues. But the sites blossomed when he linked up with Wood, who at that time was a psychiatric nurse. Interestingly, in this ‘Internet age’ they have the perfect e-story to share. They are business partners who work together on a daily basis yet live in two different parts of the country – Bennick in Seattle and Wood - over 1,000 miles away - in Denver. Again, consider it a sign of the times that when they did finally meet face-to-face this past June, it was not at some halfway point but clear across the continent in Washington DC, at the annual meeting of the National Mental Health Association.
“Several years back, my fiancée and I were frequent visitors to the AOL Online Psych Center and at that time Derek maintained the site,” explained Bennick as he reflected on how they met. “My fiancée emailed Derek and asked if he would be interested in writing some online content for our site. So in the beginning, Derek was writing for us. But as things moved forward it became obvious that he would be a tremendous help to our organization, so we asked him to become a part of our company,” explained Bennick.
After forming a shared vision and dedicating themselves to the cause, today their site, www.psychforums.com, offers people a choice of more than 100 interactive bulletin boards to share thoughts, ask questions of peers, and offer up general recommendations to others battling the same conditions or diseases. In fact, they offer so many bulletin boards that they would like to hear from anyone interested in moderating one of the forums. Those interested can email Sean Bennick at email@example.com.
Their third site, www.getmentalhelp.com, while still being developed, will offer visitors a vehicle for locating local therapists or substance abuse treatment centers.
In addition to these three sites, the team has also developed a tool that many consumers have found to be quite helpful -- psychTracker. It’s a unique journaling and charting system designed to help consumers understand their symptoms and thereby make personal adjustments to ensure optimal stability. “There are a variety of psychTrackers available, covering twelve different mental health disorders -- each includes daily journaling, sleep monitoring and symptom tracking on a 10-point scale to evaluate severity,” noted Wood.
In using psychTracker consumers learn to detect the early onset of cycles – and are thereby empowered to implement the necessary steps to prevent the severity of the cycles or avert them entirely. In total, the psychTracker assists in charting daily and weekly trends, detecting which symptoms are associated with which moods or cycles, and the positive or negative impact of environmental factors. Those interested in learning more about this unique tool are encouraged to call 425-402-6934.
In looking at all they have accomplished, it’s hard to believe the Bennick and Wood only met three years ago, and their future plans are quite ambitious. “In early 2005, we’ll be launching an online version of psychTracker at www.psychtracker.com -- this will allow us to reach an even broader audience with useful, practical, applicable information,” noted Bennick. “We are very excited about the direction that our work is taking. With regard to psychTracker, we see future applications in the physical medicine arena as well,” Wood added.
Obviously they’re an e-team that was meant to be.