ReachOut.com intern, Mitch has been working on Yahoo!
Answers for the past few weeks, engaging young people through their
mental health questions. He gives you a step by step tutorial on
setting up a profile and how it can be used with young
In my last blog, I did a short introduction on how Yahoo!
Answers can be used as a medium to engage young people in a setting
that they are comfortable with. In this follow up, I will go
through the process of answering questions from start to finish
while touching on how to create a log in ID, how to navigate the
website, and the steps I take to answer questions.
To begin engaging with young people through Yahoo! Answers, you
must first create a login name. The first step is getting online
and going to Yahoo.com. To do this, just type yahoo.com into the
address bar on your web browser. For those of you that don't have a
Yahoo! ID, here is a quick tutorial on how to create one. In the
upper right hand corner, there is an icon that says "Sign In" or
"Sign Up." You will choose the "Sign Up" option.
Clicking the link will take you to a page that allows you to
enter your personal information (such as name, gender, birth date,
etc.) and initiates the creation of an ID. It is a pretty simple
page without any unnecessary text or graphics. All you do is enter
your name, your screen name (which, depending on what you want, can
either have your name in it or exclude your name to be anonymous),
and password information. Yahoo will actually generate available
screen names for you, but they include your real name, which may
not be what you want. Here at ReachOut.com, we try to include the
company name so that we create a brand and an identifiable,
reliable screen name.
From here, you will be directed to a congratulations page and
then to your e-mail inbox. There is not much to look at here, so
you want to head back to the home page. To navigate back to the
Yahoo homepage, click on the drop box arrow near the top right
corner next to the words "Yahoo!7," and it will give you the option
of "Yahoo!7 Home," or you can just type Yahoo.com back into the
address bar, both will take you to the next part of the answering
Once you reach the homepage, you will be presented with the
latest world and local news headlines. To the left of the screen
there will be a list of categories, ranging from "Answers," the one
you want, to "Y!7 Pulse." Clicking on "Answers" will take you
directly to the Yahoo! Answers page. Scanning down from the top of
the page, you will first see the tabs that say "Home," "Browse
Categories," "My Activity," and "About." Below this, there is an
area that features the top questions. Farther down are the
questions that are available to answer. You can begin to sort
through these, or you can straight to the "Browse Categories" tab
and select "Health."
Selecting "Health" narrows down the search quite a bit, but
there are still many topics to choose from. If you select "Mental
Health," you will have direct access to questions about all kinds
of topics. Here, the "Open" questions are displayed. (Open means
they are still available to answer; there is also an "In Voting"
category that allows other users to vote for the most helpful
answer, or "Resolved" questions, which have been answered and the
best answer selected.)It helps to just browse through the questions
before diving in. To select a question, you just click on the title
and you will be directed to a page that allows you to see what
other people, if any, have said in their answers. From here,
clicking "Answer Question" will allow you to enter a response in a
text box. Under this box is another area that allows you to enter
your resources for the information, for example, "18 years
professional counseling." You can provide information to contact
your practice or an e-mail that the person asking the question can
send any concerns or comments to. This is where it would be helpful
to have the name of your company in the screen name, so the young
person asking the question will know that you are a reliable
resource. It could also help build your practices' brand.
After submitting an answer, the "Best Answer" is either voted on
by users or the person asking can choose the one that they find the
most helpful. If your answer is chosen, you receive an e-mail and
extra points are awarded to your account. Points are given for
other reasons as well, such as creating your screen name or just
answering a question. There is a score board that tallies the
points and also keeps track of the people with the most "Best
To set up a scenario using Answers, let's say you are looking to
answer questions about depression. As soon as you click on
"Answers" at the Yahoo! home page, you go to the top of the
Answers page. Near the top of the page is a search box with a
button to the right of it that says, "Search Y! Answers." All you
need to do is type "depression" into the box and hit the button,
and you will be taken to a page that only has questions about that
topic, no matter what section they are in (the question could be
under the mental health, singles and dating, or women's health
sub-topics). You may need to sort the questions, because they are
initially sorted by relevance, but they could be many years old and
already solved. (Most questions are only available to be answered
for four days) To sort by newest questions, all you have to do is
click "Newest," which is located right under the search bar. If you
want to do a more specific search, there is a box to the left of
the screen that lets you select categories, question status
(resolved, in voting, open), or number of answers. From here all
you would need to do is click on the question of your choice and
you can answer away.
Answering effectively is a process that has been refined at
ReachOut.com. My first thought was, "There is a process?" Before I
started answering questions, I thought I would just sit down and
have a go at it. There is actually a training module that I had to
complete before I was cut loose into the virtual world. There is an
entire document that sets regulations for the answers that I give.
It goes through Helper Characteristics, My Limitations, and Helper
Helper Characteristics is a guideline of the personality traits
that a person answering questions must have, including empathy,
genuineness, non-judgmental, and empowerment. These are the basic
components of the answers that I provide. I must make the person
asking the question know that I care, that we understand what they
are going through, that I am unbiased, and that they can and must
do something about their situation. Using these characteristics
shows the asker that I am responding to their personal crisis and
that I am trying to help them on a personal level.
The section on My Limitations contains training that I use to
develop my comfort zone. It teaches that I don't need to answer
every question on the website, just the one that I feel comfortable
engaging in. I use this section in many ways, for example, I don't
deal with questions that mention suicide (one of the principle
guidelines for non-professionals), nor do I answer questions that
pertain to cultural topics (personal choice, because I am not
familiar with some aspects of the Australian Culture).
Helper Skills is another very important part of the training
developed by ReachOut.com. This part of the training is more about
specific parts of the answer. The first part is a "Feelings Check,"
where I make sure that I know how the user is feeling. Next, there
is a "Perception Check" that is used to make sure I can label the
feeling from our point of view. Thirdly, I "Normalize" the
feelings. It is important to let the young person know that what
they are not alone in feeling the way that they do. After I
normalize the young person's feeling I validate how they feel.
Saying, "It's ok to feel the way that you do," really lets them
know that they aren't the only person to ever feel how they do. All
of these skills are helped by paraphrasing parts of the question.
This shows that I am focusing solely on their question.
Combining these steps is a very easy way to come up with answers
to young peoples' questions about mental health. In addition to
these building blocks, I post links to ReachOut.com's fact sheets
and stories to show the young person that there are resources for
them and the stories show that other people have suffered and
gotten better. Finally, in every answer I provide contact
information for the Kid's Helpline and Lifeline. I highlight that
they are free and anonymous sources of counseling. I also suggest
seeking professional help.
Overall, Yahoo! Answers is extremely easy to register for, and
more importantly, easy to use. This is what makes it a great tool
for professionals to embrace, no matter what computer skill level.
Young people that need help are given a free, easy-to-use platform
to voice their questions and problems, and professionals are
provided with a great resource to provide support, solutions and
information to those in need. The training module set up by
ReachOut.com is a very easy to follow tool that has been key in
responding to young people online.