A free online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) tool has been launched that has been designed specifically for people with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Shift.ms, the social network for people with multiple sclerosis, has developed the tool, called Thought Sort, alongside Rona Moss-Morris, professor of psychology as applied to medicine at King’s College London and those living with the neurological condition.
A diagnosis of MS brings huge uncertainty and a complex range of emotions, including sadness, frustration, anxiety and depression, which can lead to further distress. Research published in the King’s Fund report ‘Bringing together physical and mental health’ by Chris Naylor, senior fellow in health policy, found: “There are 15 million people with long-term health conditions. King's Fund estimate 4.5 million people with long-term health conditions have mental health problems who have worse health outcomes as a result.”
Waiting times for accessing NHS psychological services can vary in the country, meaning some people end up waiting for weeks and even months to start a course of CBT. Thought Sort has been designed to bridge this gap and provide support at a time when people are most in need – it can be accessed by all people with MS, no matter where they live. The aim of the platform is to help them recognise negative feelings early on, learn to understand what is fuelling them and essentially how to combat them.
Thought Sort provides tasks that support people with MS to work through their unhelpful thoughts. While using Thought Sort, users can call on a peer, a CBT-trained member of the Shift.ms community, to get confidential support to work through the different sections of the tool.
George Pepper, co-founder of www.shift.ms, said: “Members of the Shift.ms community know all too well the effects an MS diagnosis can have on mental health. Our co-design team of people living with MS have been instrumental in the development of ‘Thought Sort’ and will continue to play an important role as online peers, supporting users of the tool.”
Moss-Morris added: “As lead author of the MS Society-funded Supportive Adjustment for Multiple Sclerosis (saMS) manual, I was approached by Shift.ms with the idea of creating an online tool.
“It’s great to see how the manual has been brought to life in a way that MSers across the world can access and personalise to what works for them. Shift.ms has put its unique stamp on it, particularly with the ‘Mood booster’ area, which suggests activities people can try with the aim of lifting their mood.”
Natasha Riley, a member of Shift.ms with relapsing remitting MS, said: “Being diagnosed in my 20’s with no one to relate to was a very frightening time in my life and I felt I had nowhere to go to gain any sort of comfort or validation for what was happening to me. I was desperate to be in contact with other people my age who had just been diagnosed to discuss symptoms, medication and my feelings as my family could not support me on this level. I think Shift.ms gives people the opportunity to overcome these feelings of isolation as you can find others in your area, on your drugs, diagnosed at the same time, so that you can reach out with no fear attached.
“Thought Sort is as far as I know the only online tool accessible to help people with MS cope with everyday worries and negative thoughts. You can pick your preferred method of approach which makes it relatable and individual to you and this really helps, especially for those that find it hard to speak to others face to face.”
For more information go to: www.shift.ms/ThoughtSort