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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mental Health and the Internet

We turn to the internet to find mental health information. It's easy to access, but, there are hundreds of websites to choose from, so, finding the right site is crucial because the wrong sites can provide misleading, incomplete, or biased information.

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Here are some websites that I recommend and discourage when looking for more information about mental health topics. You can also browse our site for more information about Diagnosis and Treatment by clicking your mouse over the images at the top of the home page.

    Choices were based on the following criteria:

        1. Scientifically-based information

        2. Content is developed by mental health professionals

        3. No ties to pharmaceutical corporations

        4. Forums and blogs for users

        5. Current information

        6. Gives balanced information for controversial issues

    None of the recommended websites met all six criteria, but these came close.










            4. WebMD

 Although Wikipedia is in the top ten most visited websites in the US, it is not a good place for specific information about mental illness or treatments. Mental health issues need to be understood from a scientific standpoint. There's over 100 years of research and theory on mental health. Since 1990, our understanding of the human brain has grown by leaps and bounds. Wikipedia and it's "editors", whomever they are, (it it is too tedious or difficult to know who is writing the articles, what are their credentials, if any, and what are their biases) have written very poor synopses of mental health issues. Articles are grossly incomplete or just plain wrong.

    Wikipedia is not a real or true encylopedia since it has no multidisciplinary review teams for scientific information. By definition the purpose of an "encyclopedia" is to share "knowledge" (truth, as we now know it), not misinformation, half truths, or outdated knoweldge. Wikipedia is probably more suited for historical information where the impact of misinformation or incomplete information would have minimal potential for harm to its readers.

It's common for large corporations to set up "charities" who champion a cause like depression but end up recommending the products of the charity's founders or funders, in this case, pharmaceutical corporations. It appears to me that CHADD has a similar function - promote biased information about ADD/ADHD and recommend the pharmaceutical products to treat it.
Most of the sites which are not recommended are funded by pharmaceutical corporations and the information they provide seems heavily skewed in favor of medications (CHADD and and at least one website provides information very critical of CHADD:

    It was a let down to me that WebMd didn't make the list of recommended sites. This surprised me, actually, because they seem to have a good reputation. With regards to mental health information, WebMD ran a lot of advertisements for drugs and the involvement of pharmaceutical corporations seemed to strong (At one point Ely Lilly sponsored the depression screening, and as of this post, it was still listed as a sponsor). This was disturbing to me - inappropriate at least and unethical at most. It just doesn't seem appropriate to have a pharmaceutical corporation, which makes billions of dollars selling antidepressant medications, sponsor the screening form for depression. The same problem seemed to apply to information about Bipolar disorder on the site.

     Moreover, this site, like many others, either does not mention, or mentions very little about psychotherapy; when therapy is mentioned, it is recommended to be done with drugs. This is upsetting because psychotherapy alone works just as well as medication in the short term and better in the long-term, for many people. For people with anxiety, psychotherapy works better than medications, in fact, taking medications while in therapy may make the therapy ineffective.

    The drug advertising on some of the sites was often obnoxious, incidious, or bold. For example, a Seroquel add started with the word, "Proven" in large letters, claiming that the drug has been proven to effectively treat Bipolar disorder with no other forms of treatment and for all phases of the disorder. This claim is bold and the add was obnoxious. It's a bold claim because research does not support it. In November 2008, a Canadian journal of Psychiatry just published a review of the research on the treatment of Bipolar disorder and the research to date, indicates that no one drug can treat all phases of Bipolar disoder. It's a very complicated disorder, with different presentations, and drugs have rarely, if ever, effectively treated the disorder alone. It's also a grossly over-used diagnosis.

    The fact is, and as you will see in the upcoming blog post, medications for nearly all mental health disroders do not work better than therapy, and therapy with drugs does not necessisarily work better than therapy alone. Also, people with certain personality traits seem to be helped by medications. There are also many other problems with medications that you'll not hear much about in the general media. There's much more to the story, please stay tuned.

Mental Health Advice Disclaimer

The information included in this post and blog are for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional mental health treatment or medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her mental health provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a mental health or medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a therapist-patient relationship.

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