A community’s best guides are its members

Catherine Eadie has been with Action on Depression since 2009, and now works as the e-health Officer. She has provided over 20 years of support, information and guidance via the web and social media as a result of her own personal lived experience of mental ill health. She is a relaxed person who loves laughing, wildlife, pets, photography and technology, which all have a positive effect on her mental health.

Being invited to set up an HU community was a perfect opportunity to engage and support more people without needing huge input from ourselves.  Being a small charity e-health is a great way for us to reach a wider network in a cost efficient way.

Setting up the community in a guided manner was ideal and it’s very useful to be supported through the process by HU staff. Using a few volunteers that we already have supporting other e-health work that we do, helped to make sure it was going to start off on the right foot.  They were officially given the title of ‘Admins’.  As we have another small online community the training that they’d already been given made sure they knew the guidelines and could contact us should they need to.

What’s useful about our HU community is that although we recruited new volunteers (Admins) to support it as it became bigger, we had interest from regular members who wanted to become ‘helpers’ which made them un-official ‘volunteers’ who keep an eye on the community as they are using it a lot anyway.


We have a number of documents, articles and expertise on community moderation collected over the years which have become very useful in training and reminding everyone of how best to support a community.  We’d always recommend sharing good practice with others and not being afraid to ask other charities and organisations about their policies and guidelines. What we find is that each community is unique in relation to the condition that it’s supporting so not everything will be relevant to your own community. We also find that learning has come about from making mistakes and it’s true that you learn from your mistakes and it makes you a better moderator, able to respond even better the next time problems occur.

We’ve been lucky not to have had many issues, but it mustn’t make you complacent and keeping up with further learning by asking others is key.  Another important thing to remember is that the people you are engaging with on the community you actually know very little about so when disputes or problems occur pre-judging isn’t going to get you very far.  Listen to the facts and what the person is saying.  If it’s between several people ask for further information from all of them and look at it as a whole.

Being straight and to the point with people with an element of firmness, especially when it comes to your guidelines is important as you are representing the organisation you work for.  Dealing with things in a professional manner and not taking sides means you maintain control of the situation.

Running a community where the topics can be extremely upsetting, triggering or sad isn’t easy, but that’s the whole point, it’s not meant to be easy because you are giving people an outlet that they often can’t find elsewhere. It’s important not to be too hands-on as you want people to express in their own words how they feel. At the same time you need to be careful to edit sensitively if something may be a bit too much for others to cope with or is giving clear instructions on something like suicide, self-harm, eating disorders etc.  Your best guides are your members, who fortunately are able to report anything that they find inappropriate.

As we reach over 1,000 members in a little over 10 months we can see how important and vital it has been setting up the community and we are very much looking forward to the updates that the HU team are making.

— Catherine Eadie, e-Health Officer at Action on Depression


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