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Survey of Internet Mental Health Issues (SIMHI)

Summary. The Survey of Internet Mental Health Issues is a nationwide mail survey of over 30,000 mental health professionals to assess their encounters with clients having problematic Internet experiences. Case characteristics were collected on 1,504 youth and adult clients relating to demographic characteristics, conventional problems, Internet use and experiences, and diagnoses. This study was funded by the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention.

Background

The Internet is a growing factor in the lives of young people, and as it occupies more time and energy in their lives, it is likely becoming a growing factor in the distress and well being of this population. Mental health and victim service professionals, such as victim advocates, crisis intervention specialists, counselors, clinicians, and social workers have an important and unique view of the lives and experiences of youth and adults. Their perspectives and insights into these populations may reveal occurrences and aspects of problematic Internet experiences, such as the nature of its impact and the reactions of individuals, which may not be revealed from other perspectives. In order to develop a more complete understanding about problematic Internet experiences and its impact, it is valuable to assess the experiences and needs of mental health and victim service professionals so they can effectively recognize and treat these experiences.

Goals and Objectives

Methodology

This study used mail surveys to gather quantitative and qualitative data from mental health and victim service professionals about their needs and experiences with problematic Internet experiences. An initial postcard will be sent to professionals who belong to a variety of different professional organizations to determine whether they have worked with clients with problematic Internet experiences. Professionals were then asked to complete a detailed survey about these clients, along with questions about their own needs associated with Internet victimization cases. In order to more completely measure professionals' own Internet use and needs associated with problematic Internet experiences, a sub-sample of professionals who had not dealt with these types of cases was sent a shorter survey asking about their own use, experiences and needs.

Summary of Findings

As part of the SIMHI study, researchers and clinicians identified a wide variety of problematic Internet behaviors and experiences among youth and adult clients receiving mental health treatment. From this, we developed an 11-category inventory of problematic Internet experiences. These non-mutually exclusive problematic Internet experiences involved: