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Review of "The Insider's Guide to Mental Health Resources Online"

By John M. Grohol
1572309881, 2003
Review by Fran Gillespie on May 18th 2005
The Insider's Guide to Mental Health Resources Online

Before reviewing this book I must detail my own limitations. I am not a skilled net surfer, nor am I professional writer and researcher like the author, John M.Grohol whose academic qualifications are similarly impressive. A mental health consumer of long standing, I have only relatively recently started working with computers. Why then did I pick up his book? I wanted to discover how useful it could be to the novice consumer.

Let's begin at the beginning. The language is easy to follow, and Chapter One 'Why and how to Look Online' contains a familiar cry "I hear of people …simply getting lost" (p.3) While Grohol is obviously directing his advice to fellow professionals, graduate students, clinicians and researchers, what he says also applies to those consumers, carers and others seeking information as expeditiously as possible. For the clinician and researcher MEDLINE and PsycINFO are mentioned, together with the ease of access online to diagnostic references and manuals

As explained on page six:

The book is arranged into three major parts. The first part orients you to the Online world…..the second part addresses specific topics (of interest to professionals). These topics range from how to find a job to where to look for cognitive therapy resources….The third part helps clinicians help their clients find online resources for patient education and self-help.

There follows valuable discussions about e-mail (not secure), spam, mailing lists and Newsgroups, the 'WWW' and search engines. Efficient ways of searching are also described. In fact, there is a very detailed introduction to all facets of web usage that is as useful to the lay person as to the professional.

The next chapter rates search engines and subject/search guides by a four star system that is used consistently throughout the book. It is based on the quality of the content, how well the information is presented, ease of use and usefulness.

Part Two is entitled 'Getting Answers to Your Professional Questions'. It is very clear that the same methodical approach as previously has been taken to make sure the professional reader can navigate round the web and find the answers sought. Guides to up-to-date clinical treatment and information are detailed and rated. News sites with their addresses are discussed and assessed as before.

There follows a detailed description of where to find online disorders, subspecialties, assessment and testing, forensic psychiatry and the law, managed care - all are meticulously listed and rated. Clinician's directories are of particular interest as the comments included open a window into a therapist's world. Broader subject matter includes social work, social psychology, and religion.

The chapter on job searching is well set out and a useful tool when seeking professional employment. Next, there is equally interesting research on on-line education. 'Nearly all universities and colleges in the world have some sort of Internet presence.' (p101-102)

Finding a university or company, locating a graduate program, discovering calendars listing professional events -- it's all there. To the interested mental health consumer there is also much about on-line education that is generally valuable. While there is not the star rating assessment previously used, a thoughtful resume of selected university web sites clearly compares and contrasts each one.

Access to professional networking on line is another network boon. While this does not directly involve the lay person, it is fascinating to learn of the use of on-line case conferences both formal and informal. The careful attention to anonymity and thus confidentiality is, of course, impressive. 'The elegance and beauty of case conferences on line is that opinions come from people from vastly different backgrounds, professional orientations and experiences from around the world' (p120)

Mailing list discussions can augment case conferences and the mechanics of subscribing, understanding a list and unsubscribing are detailed. A description of a number of professional mailing lists follow. These lists are, as before, aimed at the professional only, but may be richly mined by consumers of discrimination in an open and honest fashion. Professional newsgroups ensue.

Naturally, there is considerable attention paid to the internet and research, from browsing journal's websites to database searches and sharing research in mailing lists and newsgroups. Ethics are not overlooked, with the emphasis on the fact that the same principles apply whether in the office or online.

Rated next by stars are professional associations online. This is essential information for the professional and is easily accessible. There is an attempt to address the problem of stigmatization . Noteworthy is the mention of Support Coalition International (p214), an organization that is anti-psychiatry and obviously anti the point of view of the author.

Chapter 9 is well set out and researched. Book publishers, bookstores and journals online are all there in meticulous detail. The star rating system steers the online book buyer through the hazards of different sites. There is a discussion about the relative merits of print and electronic journals, then directions for finding journals online and publishing therein. While the directions to publishers and book buying interest the lay person, the latter part of this chapter does not. The chapter about finding and downloading software is as helpful to the professional as those preceding it.

As a consumer I was horrified at the concept of therapy on-line as I could not imagine the absence of the therapist (that is the geographical distance) working. Grohol does present a balanced discussion of the pros and cons of this emerging area (p249-251). Included in this chapter are e-therapy websites, and websites and lists concerning internet addiction

The final part of the book is devoted to consumer oriented resources on the web. It made stimulating reading as it commented on the content, popularity and longevity of these site.They provide education, a sense of belonging and of acceptance. They destigmatise. As there are thousands of them on the web only a few general large ones could be listed in this book. Online consumer discussion and support groups are as frequent as web sites. Such groups are peer led. As with the professional networking, mailing lists and newsgroups are excellent forums for consumers.

The Insider's Guide to Mental Health Resources Online covers an enormous amount of ground with great clarity. It is designed in such a way that all the information is easily accessible. Primarily a text for professionals, it is also illuminating for consumers. I would recommend it to both.

2005 Fran Gillespie


Fran Gillespie writes about herself:

I am a mental health consumer of forty years standing. My family is steeped in this experience as we have traced it through four generations I therefore have also a personal understanding of caring in this difficult area. In the last five years I have moved from hiding under the blankets to giving evidence to an enquiry into the human rights of the mentally ill in Australia to spearheading an understanding of the mental health consumer as a resource in our community in Hobart, Tasmania. With the support of like-minded people a system of paid consumer consultants arose from this activism. I am at present on leave from studying for a research Masters in Medicine that centres on an analysis of the development of mental health consumerism in Tasmania. I believe that it is necessary to set aside anger generated from personal experience in this area in order to achieve lasting solutions. Thus I also work as a consumer advocate.

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