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By Jim Gerland and Mark Winer

Check out our bi-weekly Net perspective. Our goal is to make these columns useful for our readers whether they be novice or pro, while still offering a fun to read column. Feel free to let us know what Internet resources you find useful in your personal, educational, or business life - it might just end up in one of our columns!


Support on the 'Net
August 19, 1997

We've written over 30 articles regarding the Internet this past year and a half for the Buffalo News. In doing so, we've tried to pass out tips, tricks, and some cool sites to surf to. We've examined a number of areas of interest and tried to share some "Internet Knowledge" along the way. What we haven't talked about is one of the 'hidden' benefits of the Internet - communication that exists among people who need help and those who find a sympathetic on-line community.

Often people don't feel comfortable asking for help when they need it most. This might include chemical addiction, physical disability, or a disease. Within the Internet community, however, there are web sites, newsgroups, and mailing lists devoted to nearly every possible affliction and problem that exists.

A friend of ours has what we thought to be a unique condition: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). From our prodding she went on-line and was astonished at what she discovered. There are web sites (www.yahoo.com/Health/Mental_Health/ Diseases_and_Conditions/Anxiety_Disorders/ Obsessive_Compulsive_Disorder__OCD_/), newsgroups (alt.support.ocd), and mailing lists (ocd-l@vm.marist.edu) devoted to OCD. Pleasantly surprised, she has made numerous on-line friends and gained a wealth of information. In fact, she has used the Internet to explore new treatments for OCD and has joined a mailing list that provides her with the latest research information.

Another friend has been battling cancer for over a year. He has found information and solace from the many resources found on-line. One of the best is the National Cancer Institute's CancerNet (wwwicic.nci.nih.gov/). A good mailing list is cancer-l@wvnvm.wvnet.edu and check out the alt.support.cancer newsgroup.

We hope that others (and their loved ones) will use the Internet to get valuable information and solutions to their problems.

[Disclaimer: We aren't health professionals, mental health counselors or social workers - we are just a couple of computer guys who have seen people use the Internet to gain knowledge and comfort for the problems they have. As such, we advise you that not all information on the Internet is truthful, medically sound, or recommended. Beware of everything you read and get an informed opinion from a medical professional when appropriate.]

Perhaps the greatest advantage to using the Internet is that it can offer anonymity. Unlike the TV saloon "Cheers", you can "step" into an Alcoholics Anonymous chat room (www1.shore.net/~tcfraser/aairc.html) and no one will no your name or what you look like. For those struggling with alcoholism being able to feel secure that a friend, co-worker or loved one will not find out about your problem is extremely important. The Internet, specifically www.alcoholics-anonymous.org, is a place where you can be anonymous if you want to be.

The most basic and common Internet communication tool is email. A great way to find out email addresses of those that share similar problems and read about their experiences is through newsgroups. A newsgroup is a forum on the Internet consisting of articles and follow-up posts. There are over 10,000 newsgroups and each is a narrow category, such as the alt.support.depression newsgroup.

For more immediate and personal communication we suggest on-line chat areas. Chat is Real- time conversation via computer whereby each participant types a line of text and then presses the Enter key. That participant's words appear on the screens of the other participants, who can then respond in kind. Most online services support chat (check with your Internet service provider). Again, there are chat rooms for various diseases, conditions, addictions and other problems. You might want to start your search at the Guide to Medical Information and Support on the Internet (www.geocities.com/HotSprings/1505/guide.html).

We mentioned only a few specific support related web sites, newsgroups, IRC channels or mailing lists. There are simply too many. Just as you can't possibly list all the addictions and diseases that exist, so too we can't list all the associated web sites, LISTSERVs and newsgroups related to such.

The best way to find out about a specific topic is to use a search engine such as Yahoo (www.yahoo.com), Lycos (www.lycos.com), or AltaVista (altavista.digital.com). For most searches you will be overwhelmed with the results. In fact, many conditions or diseases will return full category listings that have tens of links. For a listing of up-to-date chat rooms, check out Yahoo's listing of channels (chat.yahoo.com/).

No matter what method you find most appropriate, it is important to get help for those who have problems. If you think the Internet seems impersonal, please realize that it's not. Sometimes help is as simple as reassurance that you are NOT alone. Taking the first step - regardless of the nature of the problem - is often the most difficult. Knowing that there are others out there with the same problem helps and the Internet connects millions of people.

If you have a question about how the Internet can help you find information about a particular condition or affliction, please email us.

Finally, we want to continue to help you utilize the Internet in your life. Let us know what you're interested in and we'll check it out. You can email us, info@internet-guys.com , or fax us, (716) 853-1350 and let us know what's happening on the Internet in WNY or any computing related activities you're involved with.