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U.S. Government Website on Mental Health Offers Basic Information in Plain Language
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Fri, Dec 20th 2013
Our government is not exactly known for creating clear, understandable materials. But here's a nice surprise: the recently constructed website, MentalHealth.gov, offers basic mental health information in plain language.
The website was developed partly in response to President Obama's call for a stronger effort to curb gun violence among youth. Indeed, several of the school shootings that have occurred over the past few years were committed by young adults with a history of mental health problems.
The site is quite accessible (and it's also available in Spanish). It's divided into four sections:
Basics. This section answers the question, "What is mental health?" as well as discusses myths and facts about mental health. Some are quite poignant, like the myth that personality "flaws" and "weaknesses" cause mental health problems. The section also defines recovery and describes its various dimensions.
What to Look For. Different types of mental health problems are discussed here, including anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, psychotic disorders, and suicidal behavior. Keep in mind that the information here is very general; if you need specifics on a particular disorder, the topic centers here at MentalHelp.net provide significantly more detail.
Talk About Mental Health. This section is divided by type of consumer, with recommendations for people with mental health problems, young people looking for help, parents and caregivers, friends and family members, and educators. Tools are provided for starting community conversations about mental health, and stories of recovery provide hope to those who are struggling.
How to Get Help. Resources are provided for getting immediate help, finding services for veterans and their families, navigating health insurance and mental health services, and participating in a clinical research trial. The "Get Immediate Help" button is also featured on the home page.
One of the site's features I really like is the treatment locator on the home page. Plug in your zip code and you're taken to a listing of mental health services in your area. The site also includes a blog and a page explaining how to connect to the site through social media.
While the site is quite basic, I think that this was the government's intent. It was not created to replace other sites, such as MentalHelp.net, that provide high-quality, in-depth information about mental health issues. Rather, it is meant to be a starting point for those who don't know where to look for help when they are struggling or are concerned about someone close to them. I applaud our government for finding the right balance of information and simplicity.