ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Computer Literacy

By Jack Bragen
Friday October 12, 2012 - 12:39:00 PM

Computers for persons with mental illness can be very helpful in making a meaningful recovery. However, they can be a source for paranoia; a person with paranoid tendencies to begin with may imagine being spied on by his or her computer. Computers can also be a source of problems when being used by people who have addictive or otherwise problematic personalities. 

Being computer literate is an essential skill in society. There are still numerous persons with mental illness who barely know how to operate a computer, and these individuals have been left behind. 

Computers can provide good exercise for the human brain. Using a computer is interactive, while watching television is passive. Learning how to use various computer programs, such as Word and Excel, or learning how to make a nonworking computer work, are activities that employ large amounts of brain power. For people with mental illness to recover, exercising the gray matter like this is very important. 

One of the chief complaints coming from persons with mental illness is that we often feel very isolated. Computers allow communication with other people. People who someone would not ordinarily talk to are more accessible through email and Facebook. Companionship at a distance and facilitated electronically is still companionship, and fulfills a need. 

Having a computer can provide an activity for someone who has excessive spare time, and they might end up doing something useful. 

Computer literacy is a necessity for persons with mental illness if they would like to participate at all in the job market, go to college, or do almost anything that involves other human beings. 

However, computers can be a source of paranoia for someone with poorly treated or untreated psychosis. I knew someone who paid me to fix a problem on his or her computer, and who later became psychotic and accused me of tampering with it. This person demanded a refund, and I refused to do that. People can get paranoid and delusional with subject matter of computer spying. 

A great number of delusions can exist about computers. However, most people who become delusional concerning computers are those who would have become delusional anyway concerning something else, if there were no computers. If someone is solidly tracking "reality" then computers should not be a source of delusions. 

Computers can be a means of having an addictive problem. Some people are obsessed with viewing pornography, while others are obsessed with games. Either of these can be a path to deterioration for anyone and especially for a person who has a preexisting mental illness. 

Despite these problems, computers are overwhelmingly beneficial for persons with mental illness. 

It helped me to do better in life when society changed to make computers prevalent-it was a change in society that almost helps me fit in with other people, a change that gave me more of an identity. Getting into writing for me was an additional benefit. 

Persons with mental illness can benefit a lot by using computers, but should be aware of the risks.