Online mental health communities (OMHCs) have emerged in recent years as an effective and accessible way to obtain peer support, filling crucial gaps of traditional mental health resources. However, the mechanisms for users to find relationships that fulfill their needs and capabilities in these communities are highly underdeveloped. Using a mixed-methods approach of user interviews and behavioral log analysis on, we explore central challenges in finding adequate peer relationships in online support platforms and how algorithmic matching can alleviate many of these issues. We measure the impact of using qualities like gender and age in purposeful matching to improve member experiences, with especially salient results for users belonging to vulnerable populations. Lastly, we note key considerations for designing matching systems in the online mental health context, such as the necessity for the necessity for better moderation to avoid potential harassment behaviors exacerbated by algorithmic matching. Our findings yield key insights into current user experiences in OMHCs as well as design implications for building matching systems in the future for OMHCs.

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