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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
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.'
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'
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
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
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.