ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Computers; Efficacious or Not?

Jack Bragen
Sunday July 22, 2018 - 10:52:00 AM

It is easy for someone with psychotic tendencies to be paranoid about their computer, because cyber-spying does sometimes exist, and because it is compelling to imagine someone spying on us. Years ago, I've met someone with mental illness whose paranoia was made worse by her computer. At the time, I was offering computer assistance in the homes of customers, as my small business. 

(Such a business model wouldn't work anymore. There is the chance of being mugged, if the customer turns out to actually be a robber. There is the factor of the techie field being extremely competitive. There is an increase in the costs of licensing and insurance. Additionally, when I went to the homes of strangers, some had ulterior agendas--I won't elaborate about that.) 

Despite this, my technical background (which, in comparison to most techies, is moderate) helps me a lot, in what I do. I am not paying someone to maintain my computer. I'm able to self-publish books without paying for any literary or technical services. I help relatives and friends with their PC issues. I am able to take full advantage of affordable software and hardware. As a poor person wanting literary success, I have the skills I need. And I would be unable to pay someone to do what I can actually do for myself. 

If we go back in time three or four decades, I read college level electronic textbooks starting at the age of twelve. I did electronics as a hobby throughout my teens. I worked in electronic repair shops in my twenties as a technician. I took classes in computer repair in my twenties and early thirties. 

For me, computers are therapeutic. However, I also know that I reach a point where I have to "step away" from the computer. 

However, given that we take enough breaks and get enough rest, use of a computer to accomplish constructive tasks could have a good effect on brain structure. 

For some people with mental illness who are cognitively severely impaired, computers probably do not help their situation. Computers can trigger people's paranoid symptoms. Additionally, they can cause people to get all of their money taken by a scam artist, who in some instances may be in a foreign country. 

If you are on a computer and lack enough practical understanding, there are all kinds of traps on the internet that can do harm to you. If you write a book manuscript and would like to have it published, the waters are full of sharks. 

Thus, for mentally ill people who might be "low functioning"--who have a cognitive impairment in addition to their primary diagnosis, computers may not help the situation. However, if you are well into recovery, and would like to try anything whatsoever in the vein of a career, you must have decent computer skills. You must also have professional boundaries concerning what the uses of your computer are and aren't. 

Email is a great way to conduct business and friendships. This is because you are able to think through what you'd like to say before sending it. Secondly, if, like me, you are not good in situations that have immediate pressure, working in the home at a computer opens up a door that beforehand didn't exist. 

Computers can be efficacious for mentally ill people, or could be risky. It is necessary to know when to stay off the computer for a while. 

Any sort of "reintegration" (which in the past was a buzzword in the realm of mental health--what happened?) into society will require computer literacy. Some amount of social media should be done, and the consumer should have basic competency in use of a PC or Mac. 

Speaking of those in the mainstream, non-mentally ill public, computers have partly made conditions better for many people, yet they have also made a number of things worse. It was inevitable that we would discover this technology, and now it is here. 

As we try to grapple with some way of holding the destructive aspects of computers in check, the technology continues to progress. Any regulatory legislation is at risk of being out of date by the time it goes into effect, during the time lag after being enacted by Congress or at state levels. 

For persons with mental illness, the best prevention of being harmed by a computer is to be informed. Computers can potentially change lives for the better. Taking classes that cover this technology can only help.