University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


First, Do No Harm: Referring Primary Care Patients with Depression to an Internet Support Group

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Health Communication | Health Information Technology | Psychiatry and Psychology


BACKGROUND: Internet Support Groups (ISGs) offer people easy access to information regarding depression as well as support from others who are either currently suffering from depression or have previously suffered from depression. The safety and efficacy of ISGs for people with depression have not been thoroughly studied.

INTRODUCTION: The safety and helpfulness of a depression ISG were assessed by analyzing pre- and postintervention depressive symptoms, other psychological outcomes, and participant ratings of helpfulness.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Participants were recruited through self-referral from six primary care offices. Participants were given access to a depression ISG and participated in an ISG for 6 weeks.

RESULTS: Thirty-four (n = 34) participants enrolled in the study (mean age = 32.53, standard deviation [SD] = 16.10). Depressive symptoms approached significance for decreasing over time and self-efficacy increased over time. No self-harm occurred over the course of the study, but two participants developed self-harm ideation. Ratings of ISG helpfulness were mixed.

DISCUSSION: Primary care patients participating in depression ISGs reported few adverse experiences directly related to the ISG. Depressive symptoms and self-efficacy have beneficial findings while ratings of helpfulness were mixed.

CONCLUSIONS: Primary care patients can benefit from the use of an ISG. This could be particularly pertinent to people in rural settings where mental health resources are not as available. An ISG offers a low-cost and easily accessible resource for primary care patients with depression.


depressive disorder, e-health, internet, risk assessment, self-help groups

DOI of Published Version



Telemed J E Health. 2018 Jan;24(1):1-8. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2017.0004. Link to article on publisher's site


Article pdf has journal title: Telemedicine and e-health.

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Telemedicine journal and e-health : the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association

PubMed ID