Digital Exclusion Among Mental Health Service Users: Qualitative Investigation

Background: Access to internet-enabled technology and Web-based
services has grown exponentially in recent decades. This growth
potentially excludes some communities and individuals with mental
health difficulties, who face a heightened risk of digital
exclusion. However, it is unclear what factors may contribute to
digital exclusion in this population. Objective: To explore in
detail the problems of digital exclusion in mental health service
users and potential facilitators to overcome them. Methods: We
conducted semistructured interviews with 20 mental health service
users who were deemed digitally excluded. We recruited the
participants from a large secondary mental health provider in South
London, United Kingdom. We employed thematic analysis to identify
themes and subthemes relating to historical and extant reasons for
digital exclusion and methods of overcoming it. Results: There were
three major themes that appeared to maintain digital exclusion: a
perceived lack of knowledge, being unable to access the necessary
technology and services owing to personal circumstances, and the
barriers presented by mental health difficulties. Specific
facilitators for overcoming digital exclusion included intrinsic
motivation and a personalized learning format that reflects the
individual’s unique needs and preferences. Conclusions: Multiple
factors contribute to digital exclusion among mental health service
users, including material deprivation and mental health
difficulties. This means that efforts to overcome digital exclusion
must address the multiple deprivations individuals may face in the
offline world in addition to their individual mental health needs.
Additional facilitators include fostering an intrinsic motivation
to overcome digital exclusion and providing a personalized learning
format tailored to the individual’s knowledge gaps and preferred
learning style.

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Digital Exclusion Among Mental Health Service Users: Qualitative Investigation