NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, January 2007
DailyStrength – Help for Your Life Challenges
By Ira Wilsker,
APCUG Director; Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

(click to email author)


There are many strengths of the internet. Among the most recent strength becoming popular is social networking, epitomized by such websites as MySpace and Facebook. While MySpace and Facebook, as well as others, are intended to broadly appeal to specific demographic groups, predominately based on age, there are other social networking sites appearing that are intended to cater to other groups or needs. One such site intended to provide free social networking and support services for medical and emotional needs is DailyStrength at dailystrength.org.

DailyStrength defines itself as, “ … a collection of safe, anonymous, online support groups focused on over 500 specific challenges to help people overcome their personal challenge or support a loved one through theirs (sic).” While created by three individuals with extensive computer and internet credentials, DailyStrength has a strong group of professional community advisors including medical doctors of varying clinical specialties, a psychotherapist, and even an experienced former professional who now describes herself as a “SAHM” (Stay At Home Mom) who specializes in parenting skills. It is clearly emphasized on the website that medical advice is not dispensed.

The service grew out of the personal loss of one of its founders, Doug Hirsch, who had a relative pass away from cancer at an early age. While there were other means of online personal networking, there was no good place existing then to discuss personal issues. That need eventually matured as DailyStrength. He created DailyStrength “ … to enable people facing life challenges to … simply and easily communicate their progress with friends, family, supporters, and have those people respond with encouragement and help. (Also to) find others facing the same circumstances, and exchange experiences treatments and even hugs within a safe community setting.”

While anyone can access the website and view the support groups, active participation requires free registration. Since one of the principles of speaking freely about sensitive and personal health issues is anonymity, DailyStrength has a simple registration process that only requires the creation of a username and password. It is purely optional at the choice of the registrant to decide whether or not to include any additional personal information.

The heart of DailyStrength consists of over 500 explicit communities that offer some degree of commonality of interest. Communities are grouped into a logical hierarchy of 22 areas or topics making them easy to access and participate in. Community groups consist of such areas as Allergies & Immunity, Cancers, Children’s Health & Parenting, Heart Blood & Circulation, Men’s Health, Mental Health & Addiction, Personal Challenges, Seniors, Teens, Women’s Health, Traumas & Injuries, and other areas.

Each area is then divided into detailed subtopics or communities. For example, the group “Personal Challenges” has 19 communities covering such interests as Dieting, Fitness Goals, Obesity, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Financial Challenges and Chronic Pain. “Cancers” has 37 communities including Leukemia and Lymphoma as well as cancers of the Breast, Prostate, Lung, Colon, Skin and other common cancers. “Mental Health & Addiction” is one of the largest categories with 41 communities including Depression, Anxiety, Stress Management, and Eating Disorders, plus addiction support for Alcohol, Cocaine, and Codependency. The largest topic, with 63 community areas is “Children's Health & Parenting” which has communities about kids, including Newborns, Toddlers, Preschoolers and Adoption, as well as health issues like ADHD, GERD, and Autism. According to the website some of the more popular communities are Asthma, Breast Cancer, Celiac Disease, Chronic Pain, Depression, Divorce, Grief, and Parenting issues. If a user has a need for a community which is not listed under the 500+ choices, there is an easy mechanism to request and create additional communities.

In order to access a community, the user simple has to select a topic or community. Once the topic is opened, the contents can be read, and registered users may reply or add more content. Most individual communities are a wealth of other supporting information including Discussions, Members, Treatments, Resources, and News & Info.

We are constantly bombarded with advertisements and recommendations about a variety of drugs and other treatments for whatever may ail us. One helpful resource at DailyStrength is the evaluations of treatments at http://www.dailystrength.org/treatments. Treatments are rated by the registered members who have utilized those specific treatments or other methods of relief. On the main treatment page are listed about 50 of the most popular treatments, consisting of a variety of medical, non-medical, and spiritual treatments, along with an explanation, and rating showing the “helps” rates for each. Some of the more helpful or successful treatments among the most popular are “Support from Family and Friends” (93%), Psychotherapy (90%), Prayer (91%), Physical Exercise (94%), Gluten Free Diets (99%), Xanax (92%), Education (92%), Early Intervention (96%), and several other programs, procedures, treatments, or drugs were found helpful by more than 90% or the respondents. It is also interesting to note those treatments and procedures, including some heavily promoted prescription drugs that were only found helpful by about one-half of the people who used them.

One cute feature of DailyStrength is the ability to easily send a virtual hug to someone in need as an expression of support. Some users post serious personal and emotional problems in the respective communities, often indicating their own personal moods with some variation of a smiley face which can include frowns, grimaces, and other indications of moods or feelings. Virtual hugs are used to demonstrate to those with troubles that they are not alone, and that others care about their predicaments.

DailyStrength is an interesting website service that may provide valuable services and resources to those researching medical and emotional issues and treatments.

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