If your online harassment has escalated to the point that you aren’t sleeping well, eating right, or have become prone to bouts of anxiety that are interfering with your work or personal relationships, consider seeking outside treatment or support.
Receiving help from a counselor or therapist is a great option for those with access to healthcare and/or the time to pursue this particular wellness option. We recognize that this might not be possible for everyone, however, especially for writers in underserved communities or in uncertain financial situations. Whatever your situation, there are a number of options—including free online apps and sliding-scale therapeutic resources—available to help equip you with cognitive tools for surviving episodes of online harassment and facing anxiety or depression.
If your anxiety or depression have progressed to the point that you’re considering harming yourself, immediately speak to a trusted loved one, your healthcare provider, and/or a trained representative at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
No matter what you might be going through, always try to take a step back and remember: This. Is. Not. Your. Fault.
Assessing Your Emotional Wellness
The below emotions are normal to experience in response to online abuse, and they may go away once your harassment episode ends. This doesn’t make them any easier to process or experience; seeking help from a member of your support community or the advice of a wellness professional can help you take stock of what you’re experiencing.
(The following list has been adapted from Without My Consent):
- Anxiety and fear
- Fear for your safety
- Memory loss
- Feelings of detachment from those you love
- Uncomfortable physical reactions (pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Guilt, shame, embarrassment, or self-blame
- Feelings of mistrust or betrayal
- Depression and hopelessness
- Feeling alienated or alone
- Avoidance of people or social situations
Signs you may want to consider talking to a doctor or mental wellness professional (adapted from Fight Cyberstalking):
- You are constantly paralyzed by fear and cannot complete normal day-to-day tasks.
- You talk about your cyber abuse almost constantly, even to strangers.
- You cannot enjoy your daily life because you continue to relive the trauma of your online abuse.
- Your feelings of hopelessness or depression remain unchanged over time—even once the episode of online harassment has ended.
If the emotions above do not go away in time, or if certain feelings escalate to the point that they’re interfering with your personal life or productivity, consider speaking to your doctor or seeking the help of a wellness professional.
Professional Mental Health Care
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) offers this helpful guide for understanding treatment options and locating a mental health professional in your area.
Concerned about cost? ADAA also offers this list of low-cost treatment options—including sliding-scale therapists and federally funded healthcare centers—as well as ideas for what to do when you can’t afford therapy.
If you are a journalist, you may be able to access funding for mental health care from the International Women’s Media Foundation:
- Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund provides financial assistance to Black journalists who are in need of mental health services.
- United States Journalism Emergency Fund is awarded to any US-based journalists regardless of gender and will provide medical aid, spoiled/stolen equipment and protective gear; provide access to and support for mental health services and referrals for legal aid; and support journalists who are targeted because of their reporting during controversial and challenging events.
- Emergency Fund provides women journalists around the world with small grants for psychological and medical care required for incidents of threat and abuse related to their work, three months of temporary relocation assistance if their security is under threat and legal aid for issues related to imprisonment and censorship
Mental Health Resources
The internet might be the thing perpetuating your online abuse, but it can also offer you a form of relief. Mental health platforms are an evolving online resource helping to make therapy more accessible and affordable. PsyberGuide, a nonprofit website offering reviews of digital mental health projects, can help you identify which apps are the most trustworthy based on their credibility, transparency, and user experience. If, after reading through the PsyberGuide, you feel that you could benefit from mental health resources, the below apps and sites may be a good place for you to start. (PEN America does not explicitly endorse the below resources; rather, we’ve compiled them here as a starting point for those interested in pursuing wellness options online.)
NOTE: When choosing mediation and mental health care apps, be sure to look into their privacy and security practices. Following a detailed investigation by Mozilla, we no longer include the talk-therapy apps Sanvello, 7 Cups, TalkSpace, and Betterhelp because of concerns with their privacy and security practices. We have chosen to continue to include the meditation app Calm, given their large audience and accessibility; however, please note that Mozilla flagged this app for engaging in some concerning practices, including gathering information on users from data brokers and third-parties to personalize and target ads to users. Check out Mozilla’s guide to help you make an informed decision.
Crisis Support Hotlines
Whatever you’re experiencing online, or whatever online abuse leads to in your offline life, there are people and organizations out there ready and willing to talk.
New York City
- NYC Crisis Services/Mental Health – 1-888-NYC-WELL (692-9355)
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Trans Lifeline – 1-877-565-8860
- LGBT National Help Center – 1-888-THE-GLNH (843-4564)
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
- The National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
- The National Center for Victims of Crime Help Line – 1-855-4VICTIM ((1-855-484-2846)