I made a presentation today about Mentalympians at a sector development forum on IT and electronic communication in Canberra.
As I addressed to members of the audience, I thought of the concept of an online community channel for individuals with mental health issues while studying social work at ACU and learning of the work done by Professor Albert Bandura.
Professor Bandura is one of the most influential psychologists in the world and his work is used extensively in health psychology.
The theoretical framework for Mentalympians draws significantly on Professor Bandura’s model of self-efficacy and the important role social models play in helping to increase self-efficacy and determining human action in the face of obstacles (Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York: W.H. Freeman, 1997).
I contacted Professor Bandura in September 2007, while I was working on the concept of Mentalympians as part of my degree.
He thoughtfully sent me two of his articles; one of which strongly supports the use of the Internet as a cost-effective method to achieve better health outcomes.
According to Professor Bandura: “People at risk for health problems typically ignore preventative or remedial health services. But they will use Internet-delivered guidance because it is readily accessible, independent of time and place, highly convenient, and provides a feeling of anonymity” (The Growing Centrality of Self-Regulation in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, The European Health Psychologist, Issue 1, September 2005, p.11).
Given social prejudice and discrimination respecting those with mental health issues, the anonymity associated with using the Internet to promote mental health is especially relevant for initiatives such as Mentalympians.
In addition, one of the future objectives of Mentalympians is to act as a catalyst to help build the mental health community and strengthen its political voice for change.
The same article by Professor Bandura lends support to this type of objective for the Internet-based initiative.
“Socially-oriented approaches raise public awareness of practices that promote health and those that impair it, build community capacity to change health practices, and mobilize the collective citizen action needed to override vested political and economic interests that benefit from existing unhealthful practices” (Ibid, p.12).