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Monday, April 4, 2011

Online Advice

Question: Sometimes when I am going through a rough time I go online and describe my situation on Yahoo Answers and other people give me all kinds of advice.  How do I figure out who to listen to?

Answer: The online world has put a wealth of information about mental health right at our fingertips.  Many people appreciate this because it provides an easy and anonymous way to learn more about a condition.  This would be a great thing, if not for two important considerations. 

1) A lot of online information comes from unreliable sources.  For example, Yahoo Answers is essentially a forum where anyone can give you advice on what they think would be a good solution for your situation. 

2) While mental illness can appear to be almost identical in two people, it almost never is.  The nature of mental illness includes a large component that has to do with each person’s individual social and environmental history.  This is important because when someone online says “I have been there and this is what worked for me”, that person’s similar “sounding” experience may have little relevance to yours. 

A good source of basic information about mental illness is the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).   

However, as I always emphasize in this column, if you think you may need help it is always best to get evaluated by a professional.  That way you are speaking to someone qualified to address any issues and with enough personal information about you to make an informed recommendation.

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