In the past half-century, mental health has become a hotbed for scientific research and practice. Myths have been debunked, stigmas diminished, and knowledge continues to pour forth at an astonishing rate. Consider the Internet a mental health fitness center and this guide as your personal trainer. We'll explore a range of subjects including mental illness, finding treatment, support networks, and a whole lot more.
If you have some basic questions about mental health but don't know where to start, the Internet can provide a comprehensive introduction. Whether you're a mental health patient, family member, friend, or healthcare provider, the following sites have got you covered. You'll find definitions of terms, treatment information, support services, quizzes for self-diagnosis, and links for further research.
- When dealing with such an important issue as your mental health, you'll want to make sure that the information you receive is accurate, unbiased, and up to date. If you want to search for Web sites beyond those mentioned in this guide, take a look at the findingDulcinea Health Web Guide for help evaluating the credibility of health sites.
- Although the Internet is an excellent source for information, it's never a substitute for a doctor's care. If you suspect you may have a mental illness, you can find help in the "Locating a Mental Health Counselor or Treatment Facility" section of this guide.
- Mental illness can strike anybody but, for many reasons, it is more prevalent in certain demographics, such as war veterans. For example, this article from the Guardian reports on the psychological impact of the war in Iraq on military service personnel.
For overviews of mental health conditions ...
The Mayo Clinic
has an interview with a psychiatrist, Daniel Hall-Flavin, who describes what mental illness is in general terms, the types a person may experience, and answers questions such as "Is mental illness simply whatever a culture of society defines it as?"
Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General
contains a general description of mental illness, and the major types, such as anxiety and psychosis. This page also features tables with common symptoms of anxiety, schizophrenia, depression and mania.
Mental health resources for children and adolescents ...
The National Institute of Mental Health
has links to some of the latest research in youth mental health, as well as news and learning materials geared toward elementary and middle school students.
Mental health resources for seniors ...
The American Psychiatric Association
explains the different mental illnesses seniors commonly face in this four-page PDF. Older adults, according to the APA, "are at greater risk of some mental disorders and their complications than younger people." The good news is these disorders are treatable.
Mental health resources for veterans ...
Scientific knowledge of the causes, composition, and treatments of mental illness has grown in leaps and bounds. If you or a loved one has been touched by a mental illness, take comfort in knowing that there are myriad resources available to you on the Web. Below you'll find overviews of the causes, types, and treatments of several disorders.
- Many illnesses are believed to be biologically based; if you're trying to understand mental illness, consider first learning about how the brain works. One of the chapters in the NIH's teacher's guide to mental illness covers the basics on brain function and anatomy.
- Anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are three of the most prevalent mental health conditions affecting Americans. Though you'll be able to find answers to most of your questions in the overview sites below, we have also included resources specifically covering each of these three disorders.
For the types of mental illnesses ...
The National Alliance on Mental Illness
is one of the nation's most active mental illness advocacy and education organizations. NAMI takes a grassroots approach to providing community services such as public education, information activities, fundraisers, and advocacy. You'll find a variety of information on specific disorders.
has a portal dedicated to information on common types of mental illnesses. You can read up on the latest news, or share your concerns with others on the "Boards & Blogs" section. WebMD also hosts a thorough glossary to help you sort through the many new terms you may encounter.
For depression and anxiety screening ...
The NYU Medical Center
has depression screening test, and will assess in minutes if you ought to consider treatment. As the disclaimer states at the bottom of the page, the test is not a substitute for professional evaluation. NYU also has an anxiety screening test
, and tests for other disorders
For anxiety ...
offers a vast range of authoritative material, including how to find a therapist, guides to treatment, self tests, support groups, and a whole lot more. This is a comprehensive resource for anyone concerned with anxiety disorders.
The Anxiety Network
is put forward by psychologist Thomas A. Richards, and is an assemblage of information on panic, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety. This site offers more in the way of facts and info than resources.
For depression symptoms and support ...
Postpartum Support International
offers a great support network for anyone touched by postpartum depression. You'll find leads to information for mothers, families, and professionals, local support resources, forums, and events. Some of the resources are also available in Spanish.
For obsessive-compulsive disorder ...
A variety of mental illness treatments are available, and the appropriate therapy is based on the condition's severity, duration, origin, and the person's individual characteristics. Use the Web sites in this section to research types of medications and risks, learn what you ought to know before starting therapy, distinguish among the psychotherapy orientations and providers and determine if hospitalization is a viable option.
- Hospitalization is a treatment measure usually reserved for individuals with brief and severe bouts of psychiatric illness or for those with chronic and severe mental illnesses. Below you'll find information on hospital rankings and how to decide if hospitalization is right for you or a loved one.
- If you are looking for help locating a doctor, therapist, or hospital, skip forward to the "Locating a Mental Health Counselor or Treatment Facility" section of this guide.
Medication for mental illness ...
The National Institute of Mental Health
delivers this all-encompassing guide to medication (you can browse online or download the 45-page PDF file). Useful to patients and family members alike, the "booklet" covers a range of topics like what to ask your doctor, information on medications for special groups (e.g., children), and classes of psychiatric drugs (e.g., antidepressants). Whatever your questions might be-general, specific, or even scholarly-chances are you'll find the answers here.
offers a primer in antipsychotic medications, touching on psychotic illnesses, history of antipsychotics, dosages, and side effects.
provides the label content of over 3,000 FDA-approved prescription drugs. If you are searching for basic drug facts, this site is not for you. Content is detailed and technical and includes information on clinical pharmacology, indications and usage, warnings, contraindications, over dosage, and more.
For psychotherapy ...
The APA Help Center
provides articles, tips, and information on an array of psychotherapy related topics. This particular article details everything you'll need to know if you're thinking about seeing a therapist, like how to know it's time, insurance coverage, and picking a therapist who's right for you.
provides an overview of some of the most common types of psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, client-centered therapy, and psychoanalysis.
The Mayo Clinic
can help if you are confused by or curious about all the different types of mental health providers (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, etc.). This site does a quality job of outlining the distinctions in education, licensure, and scope of treatment services.
For mental health hospitals and mental care facilities ...
Mental Health America
provides this article, which is more of a question checklist for family members and health providers of individuals in need of hospitalization. Questions are based on stages of hospitalization and include: at check-in, during the stay, leaving the hospital, financial and insurance issues, and what to ask the therapist.
U.S. News & World Report
publishes 2007 rankings of America's top psychiatric medical centers. Enter your zip code on the left-hand toolbar to find the one nearest you. Rankings are based on hospital "reputation," which is determined by a survey of physicians rather than by hard data. Also, the list is short and includes only a fraction of the psychiatric hospitals in the United States. In other words, this is useful but not an end-all-be-all directory.
The process of finding treatment shouldn't be complicated or stressful. However, because there are so many different kinds of providers with such varied credentials and specialties, the task might feel daunting. Fortunately, the Web is host to countless sites that will help you connect with a counselor or treatment facility that fits your needs.
- More important than simply getting help is getting the right kind of help. This includes finding a provider that is nearby, affordable, and has the specialties to meet your needs. This article by the Mayo Clinic offers advice on what issues to consider when choosing a mental health provider.
- Your general practitioner may be able to recommend a therapist or treatment facility in your area that is suited to your needs.
- For many, high costs can be a major deterrent to seeking treatment-it is seldom free and insurance plans often limit which providers and what forms of treatment they will cover. Therefore, if insurance coverage is possible, you might consider first searching for a treatment provider on your insurance company's Web site. Check out this guide by SAMHSA to learn more about getting coverage through your insurance plan.
For an overview of providers and services ...
has an article about the different kinds of providers and links to resources for locating treatment. This is a must for anyone unsure of what all of those letters mean (Ph.D., Psy.D., L.I.C.S.W., etc.).
offers a directory of state mental health resources that includes a general facility locater, services directory, suicide prevention programs index, substance abuse treatment facility locater, and more.
To find a therapist ...
has a searchable directory of licensed family/marriage counselors. This free service does an especially good job with counselor profiles, which generally include address, phone number, practice description, gender, education, licensure, awards/publications, and health plan participation.
has an over-the-phone referral service that will do the leg-work in matching your needs with a therapist's experience and area of expertise. Take the time to read the article called "How NOT to Choose a Therapist" for advice on how to narrow your search. It's a bit of a plug for the site but offers some valuable advice nonetheless. This site also offers helpful information on insurance, intervention, and what to expect from therapy.
To find a psychologist ...
The American Psychological Association
has a list of links to state and provincial psychological associations. These associations are governing bodies that offer online referrals to licensed/certified mental health practitioners.
The National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology
is an organization that credentials psychologists. Search for a qualified psychologist by location, name, theoretical orientation, expertise, and other criteria. This site also features recent news in psychology, information on how to choose a psychologist, and links to information on prominent issues in mental health.
For psychiatric hospitals ...
Sometimes the most effective support comes from others who understand exactly what you're going through. The Internet makes sharing your story and learning the stories of others enjoyable and uncomplicated. Use this section to learn about the various online social networks available. On the following sites you'll find disorder-specific discussion boards, chat rooms, online support groups, diaries and journals, and community outreach materials.
- Online social outlets such as discussion threads, public journals/diaries, and chat rooms can be both informative and therapeutic. Many of the following sites provide these resources for people with mental illnesses and for friends and family. A caveat: many forums go unregulated, and not everyone posting is sincere or good-intentioned.
- A good many of the following sites offer free newsletters containing articles, tidbits, and recommendations on all things mental health-if you are impressed by the site, consider subscribing.
- Remember that anyone can read the things you post on the Internet. Be sure to leave out any personal information that you don't want becoming public knowledge.
Mental Earth Community
is managed by New York psychologist Warren Selekman, Ph.D. and hosts a particularly large, active, and caring community. In addition to your token support boards and general boards, members can amuse themselves with Mental Earth's novel "Entertainment Board." Recognizing the benefits of humor, this board encourages users to share and indulge in some trivia, games, jokes, and general tomfoolery.
's discussion groups are free, active, and cover a range of subjects including schizophrenia, major depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and more. To access them, click on "Communities" in the left-hand navigation, then select "All Discussion Groups." You'll need to register (for free) to access the forums.
was created by mental health professionals and has been sponsoring online support communities (in addition to a variety of other mental health resources) for more than 12 years. The site's network of forums is among the most extensive and dynamic on the Net. Tabs at the top of the page direct you to the type of forum you're looking for: "Blog," "Chats," and a "Community" section.
\Around the world at hospitals, universities, and institutes, researchers are making profound discoveries and continually adding to the catalog of human knowledge in mental health. Fortunately, much of this research is available to us online. Whether you are a student, researcher, consumer, or otherwise curious creature, take a look at some of the following mental health research resources.
- Finding full-text journal articles online that are both reputable and free can be tricky. Most journals require paid subscriptions to access articles online, but some make older articles available free of charge. And even some of the most restrictive sites let you read abstracts for free, which are no substitute for a full article but can provide useful summaries of research.
- Because most journals are scholarly, articles can be technical and dense. Check out abstracts and samples to determine if a journal's level of "readability" is right for you.
Directories of mental health publications ...
is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Instiute of Health and is a repository of biomedical and life science journal articles. Read articles or abstracts on mental health or specific disorders. Once you've searched a topic, use a tab under the display options to read articles that are free to access. A box on the front page of the site invites you to create customized updates
that are sent to you.
Mental health publications ...
The American Journal of Psychiatry
is the official journal of the American Psychiatric Association. The journal publishes findings that explore a full range of mental health topics, including diagnosis and treatment. While access to current issues requires a subscription fee, the AJP generously makes full-text articles from past issues available for free online.
The Journal of Abnormal Psychology
publishes research exploring abnormal behavior: its causes, changes, and correlates. JAP is a publication of the American Psychological Association, and subscription fees vary significantly for members of the APA and nonmembers. Pricing and membership information are available on the site.
Evidence-Based Mental Health
is a quarterly publication that informs health professionals of the advancements made in such areas of mental health as diagnosis, treatment, and etiology across various sectors of the population.
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests alternative or complementary health care can significantly help people with mental illnesses. In this section learn some of the best Web sites to find information on exercise, expressive therapy, yoga, and meditation. While most of these sites admit that these activities won't always prevent mental illness, many can help boost mental health or complement existing treatment regiments.
- Approaches to mental healthcare such as exercise, yoga, and meditation are not only beneficial to people with mental illness. Such activities have been shown to decrease stress, increase energy levels, and improve mood in those who are otherwise mentally healthy.
- Be sure to discuss any alternative methods you're using with your healthcare professional.
For overviews of alternative approaches to mental healthcare ...
is a warehouse of information on drug-free approaches to mental health treatment. The most helpful feature on this site is the article section, which covers a variety of alternative treatments (nutrition, exercise, etc.) disorder by disorder. Also, check out the directory of alternative practitioners if you are looking to meet with a health professional specializing in such treatments.
offers a run-down of several alternatives to traditional mental healthcare including self-help, expressive therapies, and relaxation and stress reduction techniques. Check this site out if you're looking to sample your options.
Mental Health America
has 10 tips on changes that older people can make in simple day-to-day activities to improve mental well-being.
For exercise to improve mental health ...
offers a simple discussion of the positive impact of exercise on mental health, along with some tips and additional links to getting started.
has an article outlining a British study tracing the effects of exercise on mental health to the chemical phenylethylamine. This article is particularly useful to anyone hoping to understand the biological mechanisms underlying this phenomenon.
offers a more technical and critical analysis of the research on exercise and mental health by Dr. Daniel Landers.
To learn more about alternative medicine and exercise ...
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