Ruby developed the idea off the back of her Losing It tour

Ruby developed the idea off the back of her Losing It tour

Ruby Wax has today launched a new website aimed at anyone affected by mental illness.

The new social networking site, Black Dog Tribe, is the brainchild of the comedienne and Dutch internet entrepreneur, Nina Storms.

The site provides a much needed place where people who are dealing with mental illness can meet and connect with others trying to cope with exactly the same issues.

It's aimed at people suffereing from mental illness themselves and the friends, family and work colleagues who are dealing with the impact of mental illness.

Ruby says: "I'm really excited by the potential for Black Dog Tribe to give people dealing with mental illness a place where they can go, a community where they can get help and also others in the same boat. When I had depression I wish I'd had access to something like this."

Black Dog Tribe contains lots of information on mental illness, but most importantly offers the chance for users to connect by forming 'tribes' with like-minded people who understand what they are going through.

The idea for the site developed during the UK tour of Losing It, Ruby's darkly comic confessional play, part of which deals with her own depression. After each show, Ruby invited the audience to talk freely about their own experiences with mental illness and was overwhelmed with the response.

Ruby says: "It was like the floodgates opening, people were desperate to speak, to get the chance to talk about what they were going through with people who are dealing with the same issues.

"I couldn't believe some of the stories we heard. One guy, a gruff looking Geordie, stood up in front of his wife, who didn't know a thng, and said he had been taking anti-depressants for 10 years.

"Another lady hadn't left her home for twenty years, but a group of her friends persuaded her to come along to the show. In four years of touring the show all round the country, visiting NHS sites as well as theatres, we had probably thousands of people who were simply grateful for the chance to talk.

"It was clear there was a huge, unmet demand from people to be able to talk to others in the same predicament about mental illness. Nina came one night and I told her about my frustration that we couldn't meet the demand out there just through the shows. She suggested creating a social networking site and the seed was sown for Black Dog Tribe."

Users of the site will be encouraged to create communities with like minded people - to form 'tribes' - and start things off, seven of these tribes have been set up, based around themes taht kept coming up during the theatre tour.

Black Dog Tribe is launching initially in beta form, which means it isn't completely finished but users can sign up, join the tribes, play around with the content and functionality, and feedback on what they like and don't.

Dr Mark Collins, consultant Psychiatrist at The Priory Hospital and one of the experts on the Losing It tour, recognises the website's potential benefits. "We know that simply being able to talk about mental health problems can help a person feel less alone in their illness, which can have a significant effect on their ability to cope. Connecting them via a social networking site could bring similar benefits as counselling and group therapy."

The site is aimed at adults, providing a place where they can communicate freely but safely.

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