Nonprofit Association Uses 'Second Life' to Spread Mental Health-Addictions Awareness Virtually

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Second Life social community serves as an educational tool for mental health and addictions awareness.

The National Council Second Life

Second Life allows us to create this community and to educate visitors about the true nature of mental illness and addictions and how to deal with them.

The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare is the first organization of its kind in the United States to offer mental health and addictions awareness and support virtually using the technology of Second Life.

Second Life is a 3D virtual world that is created entirely by its millions of residents from around the globe. The digital world is full of opportunity as people buy, sell, trade and share with their Second Life neighbors. Through this form of computer-mediated communication, people are expanding their skills online, creating new opportunities on the web and building a society full of support networks and educational tools that are available on demand.

Last year, TechSoup.org helped to create a virtual island in Second Life called the Nonprofit Commons. The space is a virtual community for nonprofits to explore the opportunities and benefits of Second Life. The Nonprofit Commons is open to all Second Life residents and provides information on a variety of topics.

The National Council created an office on the Nonprofit Commons and uses Second Life to build community among those with mental illness and addiction disorders and those who care for them. Second Lifers get the benefit of in-person education and engagement that helps them better manage the challenges they face, knowing they are not alone. They are connected to resources for employment, comprehensive care, and grassroots advocacy to lobby for increased access to effective mental healthcare.

"The National Council and our members know that meaningful interaction--a strong sense of community--is essential for recovery from mental illness and addiction disorders," says Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council. "Second Life allows us to create this community and to educate visitors about the true nature of mental illness and addictions and how to deal with them."

In the virtual space that Second Life creates, people can reach out to each other in a personal or professional manner, much like real life, but in a more spontaneous environment. Residents create a representation or an avatar of themselves and explore the digital continent, talking with other people along the way. In this society, a woman with depression can chat openly with a mental health professional she has never met in person. A lawyer suffering from alcoholism can discuss substance abuse treatment plans with a behavioral health specialist from the comfort of his home.

Next week, the National Council will welcome Jeannedellalune Prudhomme, a former print journalist and an expert in supporting virtual communities in Second Life, to their office at the Nonprofit Commons for a virtual interview.

About the National Council

The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) association representing 1,400 organizations providing treatment and rehabilitation to help people recover from mental illnesses and addiction disorders.

National Council members serve nearly six million adults, children, and families in communities across America. We offer a vital safety net to some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society -- Medicaid beneficiaries, the uninsured, the destitute and homeless, children in foster care, older adults, those with HIV/AIDS, veterans, and those in our criminal and juvenile justice systems. The people our members treat live with their families or alone; some are in hospitals, jails, or juvenile detention facilities and others are in residential programs, foster care, or group homes.

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Linda Rosenberg
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